Heather Betz to Head LGBTQ Law Project

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heather betz cropHeather L. Betz has been named Supervising Attorney of NYLAG’s LGBTQ Law Project, which provides direct legal services to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community throughout New York City. Since its inception in 2008, the project has helped low-income LGBTQ individuals break down the complex barriers to justice they face, address the shortage of experienced, culturally competent lawyers available to provide free services on a range of legal issues, and advocate for changes to our legal system that will expand the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers.

“We are so pleased to have an attorney of Heather’s caliber and diverse experience join NYLAG to lead our LGBTQ Law Project, which has made great strides in recognizing and helping to address the unmet needs of New York’s LGBTQ community,” said NYLAG President and Attorney-in-Charge Beth Goldman. “Under her leadership, supported by the amazing LGBTQ Law Project staff, we look forward to continuing to provide critical legal services   ̶ and a voice ̶ for uniquely vulnerable New Yorkers.”

Betz has spent several years representing members of the LGBTQ community.  She comes to NYLAG after serving as Project Director of the DREAMER Pro Bono Project at Cornell Law School, where she oversaw the work of a team of volunteer attorneys and law students representing undocumented young people applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides temporary relief to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children. Earlier, she was Senior Staff Attorney at the HIV Law Project and Director/Echoing Green Fellow at the Lesbian and Gay Refugee Advocacy Project. Betz received her law degree from the City University of New York School of Law in 2001.

NYLAG’s LGBTQ Law Project provides assistance in a wide range of legal matters including housing, employment discrimination, family law, immigration, elder law, and life planning. In 2015, the project served hundreds of people with legal matters ranging from securing orders of protection on behalf of survivors of intimate partner violence to ensuring that transgender and gender non-conforming immigrants, regardless of illegal status, can access the courts to seek a legal name change.

The project leverages the resources of community organizations, private law firms, law schools, and the expertise of attorneys from other NYLAG divisions. Its attorneys staff legal clinics across New York City, and work with other organizations and elected officials to conduct outreach to offer legal services, and provide trainings to agencies and professionals serving LGBTQ communities.

The LGBTQ Law Project plays an active role in advocating for the rights of LGBTQ individuals. In the last several years, in coalition with community organizations, the Mayor’s office and the New York City Council, NYLAG has supported the creation of a gender-affirming Municipal ID, reforms to State and City birth certificate and Medicaid policies, and stronger policies to enable New York City’s Commission on Human Rights and Human Resource Administration to better serve LGBTQ communities.

The work of the LGBTQ Law Project is generously supported by The Orrick Community Responsibility Program.