The City Bar Justice Center, the nonprofit arm of the New York City Bar Association, will begin representing low-income, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers with their civil legal needs, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Tiger Baron Foundation.
The LGBT Advocacy Project joins an existing Justice Center project focused on financial matters, such as veterans’ benefits and foreclosure, and another that works on immigrants’ legal issues. It was launched in response to the expansion of federal benefits for gays and lesbians and marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“It’s a new area of the law, and a lot of people don’t understand the rights that they’ve recently won,” said K. Scott Kohanowski, a Justice Center staff attorney who will serve as the project’s director.
The advocacy project seeks to provide legal relief for low-income LGBT clients by matching them with pro bono lawyers. The Justice Center itself will take on some cases while providing support for pro bono attorneys.
It will work on LGBT issues including housing, employment, divorce and adoption, Kohanowski said. LGBT people, particularly teenagers and the elderly, are more likely to face financial problems because of long-standing workplace discrimination and lack of support from family members, he added.
Kohanowski has been a staff attorney with the Justice Center’s foreclosure project for more than four years. He is a board member of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York (better known as LeGaL).