Jennifer Pizer ’87 of Lambda Legal, OUTLaw’s Alumna of the Year, discusses the LGBTQ community’s priority issues

OUTLaw, the NYU Law student group that unites self-identifying LGBTQ students, alumni, faculty, and staff and their allies, honored Jennifer Pizer ’87 as OUTLaw’s Alumna of the Year during a virtual event on January 26. Pizer, senior counsel and director of strategic initiatives at Lambda Legal, discussed what she saw as the ongoing major priorities for the LGBTQ rights movement and engaged in an informal question and answer session after delivering her remarks.

Jennifer Pizer
Jennifer Pizer '88

Pizer, who was co-chair of Lesbian and Gay Law Students (a previous iteration of OUTLaw) during her time at NYU Law, identified five key areas of focus: creating a safe and inclusive society for transgender and non-binary people; combating what she called “the dangerous overexpansion of religious rights to discriminate” against LGBTQ individuals; addressing the impact of social stigma and discrimination; increasing diversity in the judiciary at the state and federal levels; and looking beyond US borders to issues affecting LGBTQ citizens in foreign nations.

“As we identify priority themes and think about strategies for moving forward in these very challenging times,” said Pizer, “let’s never lose sight of the fact that this work is about real people, some of whom are our closest loved ones; some of whom we’ll never know; some of whom will be mentors, colleagues, and collaborators whose friendships will enrich every day and make the shared journey worthwhile.”

Watch the video of the event:

Selected remarks by Jennifer Pizer:

“The First Amendment’s two religion clauses are supposed to be in balance, protecting freedom of religion and freedom from religion. But in our current Supreme Court, the free exercise clause seems to have morphed into Pac-Man…and to have devoured the establishment clause bite by bite by bite, leaving hardly any trace.” (video 13:59)

“Our movement has faced a hostile Supreme Court before. In fact, it was especially dramatic the year I was co-chair of this group—1986—when [the Court] decided same-sex couples have no constitutional privacy rights, and can be subjected to arrest and prosecution for adult intimacy in our own bedrooms…. We shifted our strategies then. We moved into state courts and developed more robust equal protection approaches, and will probably make some analogous shifts now. But let’s never think our advocacy can succeed if we just litigate. Our movement flourishes by telling our stories and calling for justice in every forum simultaneously.” (video 14:24)

“Sometimes we know we’re likely to lose. I want to quote my good friend Evan Wolfson, who says, ‘Well, but can we lose forward?’ If we bring a case that we know we’re going to lose, will we amplify a story of injustice that reaches people, even if we think the judge’s ears are going to be closed, or the justices’ ears are going to be closed?... Let’s appreciate the importance of visibility. Lawyers are often storytellers, but pride marches matter, too, and visibility in large corporations, and media coverage.” (video 33:30)

Posted February 16, 2022. Updated August 24, 2022. Photo credit: Lambda Legal.