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ICLS LGBTQIA+ Services Spotlighted at Equal Justice Conference 

Last week, the National Legal Aid & Defenders Association and the American Bar Association hosted the Equal Justice Conference, where legal aid advocates from across the country convene to address issues related to the delivery of legal services to communities of limited financial means.   

ICLS’s LGBTQ+ Legal Services program, launched in November 2022, was spotlighted across three different panel discussions and presentations, where members of ICLS’s pro bono team discussed our organization’s community-centered approach to serving the LBGTQIA+ community and starting a Gender Marker Name Change Clinic. 

“We are so excited we had the opportunity to learn from, and share our work with, such a broad network of legal service providers across the country,” ICLS Pro Bono Director Matt Kugizaki said. “Our hope is that others can look at our roadmap and our clinics to better meet the needs in their own communities.” 

Our staff presented at the following sessions: Starting and Managing Gender Marker Name Change Clinics; Elder Law & LGBTQIA+ Clients; and Providing Legal Services to LGBTQIA+ Clients. The presentations were given in partnership with staff from the QLaw Foundation, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, New Mexico Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of West Virginia. 

During “Providing Legal Services to LGBTQIA+ Clients,” our staff and legal aid partners covered basic terminology and concepts for serving LGBTQIA+ clients, contextualized the need for these services using client stories and statistics, highlighted techniques for providing trauma-informed and culturally competent care, and advised on developing community outreach plans. 

In a separate session – “Starting and Managing Gender Marker Name Change Clinics”-, our staff fleshed out the basic building blocks for a successful pro bono clinical program.  Participants engaged with three learning objectives: (1) cultivate buy in through strategic community dialogue; (2) ensure volunteer satisfaction without compromising the needs of the community; and (3) ensure client satisfaction through intentional volunteer training.  Changing a name or gender marker to match someone’s identity helps alleviate discrimination they may face in housing, employment, and other spheres, and it’s a very important step in many people’s journeys. 

“When ICLS started offering these types of services, we took a grassroots, community-based approach that has helped us engage with our local LGBTQIA+ clients and truly meet the need in the community,” Kugizaki said. “We hope sharing our experiences and the need can help other legal aid organizations in getting similar programs up and running without having to reinvent the wheel.”