Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fearless, Uncompromising and Creative Advocacy

Janson Wu with Sarah Remes at the ACS National Convention
GLAD Staff Attorney Janson Wu was named the 2012 recipient of the American Constitution Society’s David Carliner Public Interest Award, becoming the first LGBT-identified attorney to receive the honor.

The Carliner Award recognizes “outstanding mid-career public interest lawyers whose work best exemplifies its namesake’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people.”

In her presentation of the award  at the ACS National Convention in Washington, D.C. last Saturday, David Carliner's granddaughter Sarah Remes pointed out the many parallels between Janson's work and that of her grandfather:

 Mr. Wu has been a powerful advocate for marriage equality. He led the legislative effort to secure marriage equality in New Hampshire at a time when others believed such a thing was impossible.

In his recommendation, Bishop Gene Robinson wrote, "I now have a husband, not just a 'friend' or partner, because of Janson Wu's efforts in our midst."

Mr. Wu has taken the fight into the courts, where he is a lead member of the team challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. He and his team recently achieved an enormous victory when the First Circuit became the first circuit court to rule that DOMA is unconstitutional.  It is appropriate that Mr. Wu is honored with this award in the name of the person who brought the first interracial marriage case to the Supreme Court in 1956.

Mr. Wu has been a leader for transgender rights. While working on the marriage equality bill in New Hampshire, he insisted that his coalition include the struggles of transgender people.  He led a litigation effort against Denny's in Maine, after the restaurant refused to allow a transgender customer to use the appropriate restroom. Not only did Mr. Wu secure a settlement for his client, but Denny's changed its policies to be welcoming and respectful of all transgender customers.

Mr. Wu also was a key member of a Maine coalition that protected transgender rights against a right-wing attempt to cut them from an anti-discrimination bill. He is the co-author of a chapter in a recently published book, Transgender Family Law: A Guide to EffectiveAdvocacy.

In 1965, my grandfather won the right of gay employees to work for the federal government, and Mr. Wu's work follows in those footsteps.

“I’m humbled to receive this award for doing work that I love, particularly fighting for transgender rights and marriage equality,” Janson says.  “I hope to honor David Carliner’s amazing legacy by fighting for the most disadvantaged and unpopular in our communities, because it’s the right thing to do.”

All of us here at GLAD congratulate Janson on this well-deserved recognition!

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