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Student Work

In the Harvard LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic (the “Clinic”), students work on cutting-edge issues involving LGBTQ+ rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting underrepresented communities within the LGBTQ+ community. Clinic offerings include local and national projects covering the spectrum of LGBTQ+ issues. Students will have the opportunity to engage in a range of work encompassing various strategies for advancing LGBTQ+ rights, including impact litigation and legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ clients.

The Clinic’s impact cases include Amaya Cruz v. Miami-Dade County, a federal suit on behalf of three trans young people arrested while participating in Black Lives Matter protests and subjected to degrading treatment while jailed; Hersom v. Crouch, a constitutional challenge to West Virginia’s refusal to change trans people’s birth certificate gender markers; and Lopez v. NYC Department of Homeless Services, a settlement that secured landmark reforms in the New York City shelter system for trans and gender nonconforming residents.

The Clinic’s amicus practice includes briefs challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ attempt to rescind non-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act, and on behalf of senior former corrections officials attesting to the high risk of sexual assault experienced by transgender women in prisons

The Clinic’s regulatory work includes a published white paper on federal agency enforcement of sex-discrimination protections on behalf of nonbinary people, as well as a regulatory comment opposing the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s attempt to allow temporary and emergency shelters to discriminate against transgender and gender nonconforming people by denying them access to single-sex shelters consistent with their gender identity. The Clinic is also engaged in boundary-pushing work in the legislative and policy realms, including in the areas of intersex and polyamory advocacy.

The Clinic is housed within the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC), a general practice community law office in Jamaica Plain. LSC’s diverse clinics provide clinical instruction to second- and third-year law students and serve as a laboratory for the innovative delivery of legal services. Students are taught and mentored under the supervision and guidance of a clinical instructor in one of LSC’s clinical practices.

How to Register

The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic is offered in the Fall and Spring semesters. You can learn about the required clinical course component, clinical credits and the clinical registration process by reading the course catalog description and exploring the links in this section.

Spring 2024 Early Drop Deadline: September 1, 2023

Meet the Instructors

headshot of Alex Chen

Alexander Chen

Founding Director; Clinical Instructor; Lecturer on Law

Alexander Chen is the Founding Director of the Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. Alexander’s work focuses on expanding the rights of LGBTQ+ people through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and direct representation at both the national and local levels. Previously, Alexander worked at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. At NCLR, Alexander engaged in LGBTQ+ impact litigation and policy advocacy in education, employment, health care, housing, prisons, and juvenile justice and child welfare settings. Alexander was a member of the litigation team in the transgender military cases Doe v. Trump and Stockman v. Trump, as well as the landmark Ninth Circuit transgender prisoner surgery access case Edmo v. Corizon. He also co-drafted AB 2119, a bill that made California the first state to guarantee access to transition-related health care for trans youth in foster care. He is also a co-founder of the National Trans Bar Association. Alexander received his B.A. from Oxford University, his M.A. from Columbia University, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was the first openly transgender editor of the Harvard Law Review and worked on trans issues at the Department of Justice, the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. He clerked on the Ninth Circuit for the Hon. M. Margaret McKeown, and in the Southern District of California for the Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel.

headshot of Deborah Lolai

Deborah Lolai

Clinical Instructor

Deborah Lolai (she/her) is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School’s LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. She brings almost two decades of experience in community organizing, policy making, direct legal services, and teaching on a range of social justice issues with a focus on policing, mass incarceration, and gender and sexuality to her role. Deborah is one of the leading experts in the area of representing LGBTQ people in criminal cases and improving conditions of confinement for TGNCNBI people.

Deborah was a public defender at The Bronx Defenders for nearly a decade, where she represented thousands of clients. She was the Founding Director of the LGBTQ Defense Project, the first project of its kind in the country at a public defense organization. In that role, she represented LGBTQ clients in direct legal services, advocated for policy changes impacting criminalized LGBTQ people, and offered training and technical assistance for organizations striving to better serve LGBTQ communities. Deborah was amongst the first appointed members of the NYC Board of Correction Task Force on Issues Faced by TGNCNBI People in Custody in 2019, and co-authored the first report of the Task Force published in August, 2022. In addition to her work on the Task Force, Deborah has worked on many successful legislative and policy campaigns improving the experience of criminalized LGBTQ people.

Deborah has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work since 2019, where she teaches three courses: Advocacy, Contemporary Social Issues, and LGBTQ Communities. Deborah’s publications can be found in the Tulane Journal of Law and Sexuality, The New York Law Journal, and Bustle Magazine. Deborah is the proud recipient of the Community Excellence Award by the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York in 2021, the New York State Bar Association’s Award for Outstanding Achievements in Promoting Standards of Excellence in Mandated Representation in 2020, and the New York Law Journal Trailblazers Award in 2019.

headshot of Andy Izenson

Andy Izenson

Staff Attorney

Andy Izenson (they/them) is a passionate advocate for queer families and for their transgender community. As an attorney, mediator, educator, and practitioner of community justice models, Andy brings a varied skillset, radical compassion, and an anti-oppressive and antifascist lens to engage with family, community, organizational, and large-scale conflict. They have taught for many years on family creation and communication, cultural competency in serving queer, trans, and polyamorous clients, and prison abolition and transformative community building at venues including the New York State Bar Association, the LGBT Bar Association, the Family and Divorce Mediation Council, Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and Yale Divinity School. Andy is a member of the LGBTQI Family Professionals of New York, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, the Family Law Institute of the National LGBT Bar Association, and has long served on the board of the NYC National Lawyers Guild, including most recently a three-year term as president, and the board of their Renewal synagogue, Kol Hai. Andy’s publications include the Advocate, the Queer Magic Anthology, the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, the After Marriage Equality Collection, and the Brill Journal of Religion and the Arts, and they live on a trans commune on Lenape land in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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