LGBTQ Rights Clinic

LW.11130 / LW.11483
Adjunct Professor Michael Kavey
Open to 2L, 3L and LLM students
Maximum of 12 students
Spring semester
5 credits*
No prerequisites or co-requisites.

Course Description

The LGBTQ Rights Clinic will be offered in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016. The clinic, which is open to a maximum of 12 students, will combine fieldwork at a local non-profit organization with a weekly seminar on cutting-edge legal issues related to discrimination, violence, censorship, and other forms of oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.


Each student will earn three credits through 12-15 hours per week of fieldwork at a non-profit legal organization in New York City serving the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or gender-non-conforming people. For the Spring 2015 semester, each of the clinic’s eight students have been placed at one of six partnering organizations: the Anti-Violence Project, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, the LGBTQ Rights Project of the New York Legal Assistance Group, the Peter Cicchino Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center, and The Sylvia Rivera Law Project. It is anticipated that a similar collection of organizations will host clinic students in future semesters.

Taken together, the clinic’s Spring 2015 partnering organizations work on a wide range of issues and matters, including marriage equality; immigration and asylum; access to public assistance; public documentation regarding name changes and gender markers; criminal justice issues and conditions of confinement; domestic and bias-motivated violence; family, parenting, and foster care; school bullying and harassment; and discrimination in education, employment, housing, and public accommodations. The organizations employ a broad diversity of methods and strategies, including direct legal services, high-impact appellate litigation, media work, and public-policy advocacy.

The selection of a particular fieldwork placement for each student depends largely on the student’s interests as well as the needs and capacity of organizations that choose to partner with the clinic. After students are admitted to the course but before the semester begins, students will have an opportunity to learn more about each partnering organization and to express preferences regarding their placement. Absent special circumstances, however, students must be open to working at any of the partnering organizations listed above in order to be eligible for the clinic.


In the weekly seminar, students will explore legal issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, including issues that students will encounter directly in their fieldwork. Through readings and class discussion, students will consider landmark cases and major legislation as well as cutting-edge issues that shape the ever-evolving legal debate over LGBTQ rights. In addition to examining foundational theories and doctrine, students will consider the practical and strategic challenges encountered by lawyers and other advocates who have played a role in shaping the law in this area. Materials and exercises on important practice concepts and skills will be integrated into seminar discussions.

Topics covered in the seminar will include same-sex marriage and relationship recognition (and why these issues became central to the LGBTQ rights movement); employment discrimination; issues unique to transgender individuals, such as access to transition-related medical care; objections to antidiscrimination law based on claims of religious liberty and freedom of association; asylum law and the challenges involved in representing LGBTQ refugees; debates within the LGBTQ community about specific legislative and litigation strategies; and challenges that arise in representing clients who face intersecting and overlapping forms of oppression.

In addition to participating actively in class, students will each complete three short reaction papers based on the readings. Late in the semester, they will also give a short presentation to the class about their fieldwork.

Finally, to round out their practical experience, students will work in small groups to complete a short research assignment under the professor’s supervision and in coordination with one of the partnering organizations. The group project will provide students an opportunity to work on a legal issue that they did not encounter through their fieldwork assignment, working with an organization other than their principal host organization.

The course credits will be 2 credits for the seminar, which will meet weekly for 110 minutes, and 3 credits for fieldwork for a total of 5 credits. The seminar will meet during the late afternoon or early evening on a day to be determined. 

Application Procedure

Interested students should submit an application, resume and grade transcript through CAMS. In answering Question 4 in the clinic application, students should indicate any fieldwork interests or preferences, though they will have an opportunity to amend their answers if they are admitted to the clinic. Students should also indicate their preference for either a fall or spring course. Applicants should sign up in CAMS for an interview. Please do not hesitate to contact Professor Michael Kavey with any questions (   

The LGBTQ Rights Clinic also welcomes LL.M. enrollments, but does not specifically reserve space for them. The application period for LL.M. students is July 1-15, 2015. (Please note there is a separate application form for LL.M. students.)

Student Contacts

Spring 2015
Emma Dinkelspiel
Yue Liang
Alok Nadig
Taaj Reaves
James Salem
Rachel Shapiro
Hillela Simpson
Sharon Steinerman

* 5 credits consist of 3 credits for fieldwork and 2 credits for the seminar.