Among the topics likely to receive attention and discussion at the MBA's Annual Conference later this month, the organization's track record on gay and lesbian issues ranks as a near certainty.
"History will show that we have been committed to working on issues that affect the gay and lesbian community and other diverse groups," said MBA President Carol DiMento. "We're hoping to continue to do the outreach and be attuned to issues that affect them."
Currently, the MBA's Family Law Section Council has supported legislation that would allow unmarried adoptive parents to have the same legal rights as married adoptive parents.
Over the past 10 years, the MBA has supported a variety of efforts to expand the rights of gays and lesbians in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Among these are:
- In 1995, the MBA joined an amicus brief to be filed by the Colorado Bar Association in Evans v. Romer, then pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, concerning the constitutionality of an anti-gay amendment to the Colorado state constitution. That amendment would have prohibited any Colorado state government entity from prohibiting discrimination against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals in that state. In 1996, the court ruled 6-3 that the restrictive amendment was not constitutional.
- In 1994, the MBA supported an amendment to add sexual orientation as one of the categories in the state's hate crimes law. Backers of the amendment said expansion of the law's coverage was necessary because some district attorneys had been reluctant to prosecute gay-bashings owing to uncertainties about the rights of victims to relief and because victims often chose not to pursue their cases in the court system because the law didn't allow them to collect attorneys' fees or damages even if they won.
- In 1993, the MBA adopted the American Bar Association's resolution to support lifting the ban on gay and lesbian service members in the U.S. military.
- Also in 1993, the MBA endorsed legislation calling for an end to discrimination against unmarried public-sector employees in the provision of employee benefits. That step followed resolutions passed by the MBA Board of Delegates several years earlier that called for prohibition of discrimination by any state agency or department on the basis of sexual orientation.
- That same year, the MBA supported a law to repeal archaic laws that criminalized sodomy, adultery and other forms of sexual conduct between adults.
- Also in 1993, the MBA joined an amicus brief in the case In Re: Katherine Mary, supporting an adoption by an unmarried couple.
- In 1991, the MBA voted to investigate and offer to MBA members health-insurance plans that cover non-married partners, including gay and lesbian lawyer partners and their children. That same year, the MBA voted to require each section of the organization to increase the participation of under-represented groups including lesbians and gay men.