Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cornell law school alumni honors transgender litigator and advocate

San Francisco – The
National Center for Lesbian Rights announced today that one of their attorney’s will receive the Cornell Law School and Cornell Law Association’s third Annual Exemplary Public Service Awards.

Shannon Minter, NCLR legal director, will be honored in New York in New York City on February 7 at the Cornell Club at 6 East 44th Street, New York in the Ivey Room. The reception begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by the program at 7:45 p.m.

Minter, 46, a transgender man, was selected for his “work in advancing the human rights and safety of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families,” according to a January 7 news release.

Minter was selected out of seven alumni nominations submitted by fellow alumni, according to the release.

“I am delighted and honored,” wrote Minter in a January 7 e-mail to Bi Girl Friday. “I am also grateful for the wonderful education and mentoring I received as a law student at Cornell and very proud of my fellow honorees.”

NCLR is a national legal advocacy and litigation organization based in San Francisco that works to advance LGBT rights through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

As legal director of NCLR for more than 10 years, Minter has “litigated many impact cases” on issues relating to employment discrimination, marriage rights, parental rights and relationship rights across the United States, according to the release. Currently, Minter represents 15 same-sex couples in
In Re Marriage which is pending before the California Supreme Court. The court received more than 250 amicus briefs on behalf of marriage equality for same-sex couples in September 2007.

Prior to In Re Marriage, Minter was lead counsel in many ground-breaking cases including
Sharon Smith's wrongful death suit following the vicious dog mauling death of her partner Diane Whipple in their apartment building.

Smith, in what has become known as the "
dog mauling case" in San Francisco, received the assistance of NCLR and attorneys from Cardoza Law Offices and Heller Ehrman White and McAuliffe in filing a wrongful death suit against her neighbors Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. Whipple was mauled to death January 26, 2001 in the hallway of her apartment building by dogs belonging to Noel and Knoller. After two years of court hearings in the civil case (Noel and Knoller served time in state prison after being convicted in the criminal case), Smith and Whipple's mother, Penny Whipple Kelly, settled in December 2002. It was the first time in history that a same-sex partner was able to obtain a civil judgment recognizing a surviving partner as a family member.

“Shannon’s contributions to the law and legal status regarding LGBT folks in this country cannot be overestimated,” said Kate Kendell, NCLR executive director. “It is an honor for NCLR for him to receive this well-deserved recognition and it is a privilege for me personally to have had the pure pleasure of working with him for over 13 years.”

This past fall Minter was one of three transgender advocates honored by the
Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle “for their work promoting a positive image and advancing transgender rights,” reported the Bay Area Reporter in September 2007. Minter has also been honored, according to the release, as one of 18 people to receive the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World” award (2005) and he was awarded an honorary degree from the City University of New York School of Law for his advocacy on behalf of same-sex couples and their families (2004). He has also received the Anderson Prize Foundation Creating Change Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the distinguished national service award from GAYLAW, the bar association for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lawyers, law students, and legal professionals in Washington, D.C.

Minter received his J.D. from
Cornell Law School in 1993.

Minter serves on the boards of
Equality California and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. He is co-editor of Transgender Rights, the first comprehensive book on the transgender civil rights movement.

Other honorees include: Jamie Andree, managing attorney of Indiana Legal Services in Bloomington, Indiana; Joe Iarocci, senior vice president for Strategic Support – Care in Atlanta, Georgia; Rosemary Pye, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, Massachusetts; John Tobin, executive director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance in Manchester, New Hampshire; Lisa Wolford, staff attorney of New Hampshire Public Defender in Concord, New Hampshire; and Saman Zia Zarifi, Asia research director of Human Rights Watch in Washington, D.C.

RSVP for this event are being accepted until February 5, for more information, visit Cornell Law School 3rd Annual Exemplary Public Service Awards or call 607-255-5251.

For more information, visit

Photo courtesy National Center for Lesbian Rights

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