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Brian Chase: Gay Rights Lawyer

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Hollywood, CA42-year-old Brian Chase says there is no other work he'd rather do than what he is doing right now. "There are so few people that get to do this kind of work, I am lucky to be able to do it," says Chase.

Chase is a Senior Staff Attorney with LAMBDA (Legal Defense and Education Fund) and works in Hollywood, California. He joined LAMBDA in 2002, just in time to be part of the team that litigated against the state of Texas in the now infamous 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where ultimately the state's controversial "Homosexual Conduct" law was overturned.

"Marriage equality is still a very pressing issue across the country, but that is only a small part of what Lambda is working on," says Chase from his office on Wiltshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

"We do a significant amount work on youth and school issues. As you may notice gay and lesbian and trans-gendered kids in schools districts across the country are relentlessly harassed," says Chase. "Lambda has taken a very significant role in representing kids, against their schools, when their schools turn a blind eye to harassment."

His office is currently working on an appeals court case that involves two teenagers who say they were hounded out of their school in the San Diego area. "The administrators did little or nothing to stop the harassment, and were deliberately indifferent to these kids, even though they knew it was going on," says Chase. "Ultimately after a 5 week trial, the jury awarded the Joey and Megan $300,000, so that is up on appeal right now and we are representing them, to try to preserve that jury verdict."

Chase says school environments can sometimes be so hostile to gay issues, that LAMBDA has even litigated on the part of non-gay students who have been bullied.

"There have been cases where kids that have been perceived as gay, or seen as tomboys or sissies have been harassed just as bad as an out gay kid. It doesn't have so much to do with being out of the closet as it does with the type of school environment that school administrators permit to exist," says Chase.

Another important area for LAMBDA litigation is tax laws for gays, according to Chase. "The tax laws, both at the state and federal level treats same-sex couples very differently." He points to another case in San Diego where the real estate taxes doubled after a man inherited a property from his long-term partner.

"The law perceived him, not as inheriting the property, but as being a new owner of the property, and the taxes went up," says Chase. "We helped change the legislation and have taxes rolled back for a whole group of people like that."

Lambda has five offices through the U.S. and twenty lawyers. "We take thousands of calls every year and we try to make sure they are directed to the appropriate resources. "I have five cases in active litigation, and dozens of other cases percolating," says Chase. "We have to be very careful about the cases we take and we try to be strategic and pick the cases that are going to have the best impact."

Brian Chase is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Law (1993) in New Orleans. He earned a B.A. in Religion and a minor in English from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. (1988) He is also an Adjunct Lecturer in Law at the Gould School of Law at The University of Southern California and has given dozens of lectures and presentations on Gay Rights Law.

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