NCLR, ACLU Welcome New Mexico Supreme Court Order Setting Hearing on Freedom to Marry for Same-sex Couples Statewide

September 6, 2013

(Albuquerque, NM, September 6, 2013)—Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued an order setting a hearing for October 23, 2013 to consider a request by the New Mexico Association of Counties that the court immediately decide whether New Mexico law permits same-sex couples to marry. All 33 county clerks in the state joined in the Association’s request that the Supreme Court resolve the issue.

The counties’ request to the Supreme Court was filed in response to a case brought by six same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM), the national ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and local attorneys. On September 3, Judge Alan Mallot of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque issued a declaratory judgment against all 33 county clerks, ruling that the New Mexico Constitution requires issuance of marriage licenses to otherwise-qualified same-sex couples.  The counties requested the Supreme Court to immediately review Judge Mallot’s order in order to resolve several pending cases around the state concerning the issue of marriage for same-sex couples.

Today’s order by the Supreme Court invited the six plaintiff couples to respond to the counties’ request by September 23 and to appear at oral argument October 23. The couples will argue that the Court should accept the counties’ request and immediately extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples statewide.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s order and hope that it will lead to a speedy decision establishing the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in New Mexico,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Now is the time for New Mexico to treat same-sex couples with the same dignity and respect as all other couples and fully respect their lifelong commitments to each other and their families. We look forward to presenting the strongest possible arguments on behalf of our clients and all New Mexico same-sex couples. We thank the Association of Counties for asking the Supreme Court to resolve these crucial issues immediately.”

Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, Esq.: “Every New Mexico court that has considered the issue has concluded that New Mexico law requires that same-sex couples have the same freedom to marry as others and deserve equal protection under the law. We are grateful to the New Mexico Supreme Court for recognizing the importance of this issue and putting the case on a fast track.  We look forward to the day when all families are treated with equal dignity and respect, and all children grow up in a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have the same legal protections and freedoms as others.”

In addition to the ACLU of New Mexico, the national ACLU, and NCLR, the six same-sex couples are represented by the Sutin Law Firm, and Albuquerqueattorneys Maureen Sanders, Kate Girard,and Lynn Perls.

Media Contacts:

Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, (415) 365-1324,
Micah McCoy, ACLU of New Mexico, (505) 266-5915 x1003,

NCLR Launches Campaign Calling on Top Companies Doing Business in Russia to Urge Repeal of Extreme Anti-LGBT Laws

September 5, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, September 5, 2013)— Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced the launch of a campaign—”Stop LGBT Hate in Russia”—calling on global companies doing business in Russia to demand the repeal of new laws that target and hurt lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and allies.

Over the past few months, Russia has enacted a series of extreme anti-LGBT laws that forbid any public advocacy or positive discussion of LGBT people, ban same-sex couples from adopting children, and even prevent the use of the internet to communicate about LGBT issues. Just recently a new proposed law would remove children from same-sex parents and terminate the parental rights of anyone engaging in “homosexual behavior.”

The petition urges companies that do business in Russia and have non-discrimination policies to call on the Russian government to repeal these dangerous laws, which have sparked violent attacks against people who either are or are believed to be LGBT.

Through this effort, individuals who sign onto the Stop LGBT Hate in Russia petition are asking corporate leaders who support workplace fairness for their LGBT employees to use their influence and leadership to speak out against government-sponsored discrimination in Russia and to use their unique position to help bring an end to the dangerous government scapegoating of LGBT people.

“Russia’s appalling treatment of LGBT people has taken a shocking turn with the passage of these horrific laws,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “In the wake of these laws, discrimination and violence against the LGBT community in Russia are utterly unchecked. We cannot sit on our hands and do nothing. If we are to ever live in a world where the security and safety of our LGBT brothers and sisters are ensured no matter where they live, we must fight back in every way we can.”

Learn more about the campaign at and sign the petition.
Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 |

Federal Appeals Court Allows Enforcement of California Law Prohibiting Dangerous Psychological Practices to Change Minors’ Sexual Orientation

August 29, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, August 29, 2013)–Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a 2012 California law prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender expression of a patient under 18 years old may be enforced by state licensing officials. The ruling states that the plaintiffs in two legal challenges to the law cannot succeed on their claim that the law infringes the free speech rights of therapists who wish to engage in these dangerous and long-discredited practices.

Writing for the court, Circuit Judge Susan Graber ruled that the California law is a “regulation of professional conduct” and therefore “does not violate the free speech rights of [mental health] practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.”

The constitutionality of the California law was challenged in October 2012 in two lawsuits filed by anti-LGBT groups, primarily representing therapists who engage in the prohibited practices. The cases were assigned to two federal district judges in Sacramento, who in December 2012 reached differing conclusions about the plaintiffs’ chances of success. Judge William Shubb ruled that the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims likely had merit and ordered that the State of California temporarily refrain from enforcing the law against the three plaintiffs in the case before him. Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that the plaintiffs in the case before her likely could not succeed in their constitutional challenge because the law did not violate their free speech rights. Both rulings were appealed and heard by the same three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in April 2013.

Today’s ruling upheld Judge Mueller’s decision and overturned Judge Shubb’s decision. In addition to rejecting the plaintiffs’ free speech claims, the Ninth Circuit ordered the two cases sent back to their respective district judges for resolution of the plaintiffs’ other legal challenges to the law.

In the fall of 2012, Equality California filed a successful motion to intervene in one of the lawsuits to defend the law alongside California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who represents the State of California defendants. Equality California is represented in the cases by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter, who argued the case on behalf of Equality California in the Ninth Circuit, said: “This decision clears the way for this life-saving law to protect California youth from cruel and damaging practices that have been rejected by all leading medical and mental health professional organizations. The court of appeals ruled in very clear terms that state-licensed therapists do not have a constitutional right to engage in discredited practices that offer no health benefits and put LGBT youth at risk of severe harm, including depression and suicide. We thank Attorney General Kamala Harris, Deputy Attorney General Alexandra Robert Gordon, and the entire legal team at the California Department of Justice for their brilliant and tireless advocacy in defense of these vital new protections for LGBT youth.”

“The court’s decision today on Senate Bill 1172 is a major victory for anyone who cares about the well-being of our youth. It will directly impact the lives of thousands of young people by protecting them from this horrific practice,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. “We thank Sen. Ted Lieu for authoring this bill and Speaker John A. Perez for his bold leadership in getting the law passed.”

The California law, known as Senate Bill 1172, was authored by Senator Ted Lieu and sponsored by Equality California, NCLR, Gaylesta, Courage Campaign, Lambda Legal, and Mental Health America of Northern California, and supported by dozens of organizations including the California Psychological Association, the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the California Division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 29, 2012.

Media Contacts:
Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 415.365.1324,
Jesse Melgar, Equality California, 323.848.9801,

NM Judge Orders Bernalillo and Santa Fe County Clerks to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

August 26, 2013

(Albuquerque, NM, August 26, 2013)—Today, Judge Alan Malott of the Second Judicial District Court of the State of New Mexico ordered the county clerks of Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ruling in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and local attorneys on behalf of same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in New Mexico, Judge Malott said that denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage violates the New Mexico Constitution. The court issued a judgment against the two county clerks and the State of New Mexico declaring that, to the extent New Mexico law prevents same-sex couples from marrying, “those prohibitions are unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

“Today was yet another powerful reminder that the march to justice is unstoppable and gaining momentum,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “We are joyful for our client couples and for every same-sex couple in New Mexico. The freedom to marry is about love, commitment, family and security. These are universal values and they are center stage today.”

Said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson: “This is a great day to be a resident of New Mexico.  Our state is now on the brink of joining the growing list of states who live and honor the values of family, liberty and love.  Every family in this state is made richer by this step toward justice for all.”

The plaintiff couples were represented by ALCU, ACLU-NM, NCLR, and the Sutin Law Firm, and Albuquerque attorneys Maureen Sanders, Kate Girard, and Lynn Perls.

Media Contacts:

Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, (415) 365-1324, Micah McCoy, ACLU of New Mexico, (505) 266-5915 x1003, Robyn Shepherd, ACLU National, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666,

New Mexico Woman Suffering from Life-Threatening Brain Cancer Asks Court to Let Her Marry Her Partner of 21 Years

August 21, 2013

(Santa Fe, NM, August 21, 2013)—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, the national ACLU, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed an emergency request with New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court to allow a Pojoaque same-sex couple, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, to legally marry immediately because Jen suffers from a severe medical condition that may prove fatal in the near future.  Jen suffers from a life-threatening form of brain cancer, and her health has deteriorated severely in the past few months. Today’s request seeks an emergency order from the court that would allow the couple to marry so that Angelique and their three children will be legally protected should Jen pass away.

“I want to know that my family will be protected if I pass away,” said Jen Roper. “Angelique and I have been married in our hearts for 21 years and raised three wonderful children together. Because of my illness, we do not have the luxury of waiting years for the courts to decide whether loving, committed same-sex couples can marry in New Mexico. For us, the time is now.”

Jen and Angelique met in Socorro, NM during their first semester at New Mexico Tech, and fell in love almost immediately. Although the State of New Mexico does not recognize their relationship, the couple considers themselves married for the 21 years they have been together. The couple settled in Northern New Mexico after the Los Alamos Labs hired Angelique to work as an engineer. Later, they adopted three siblings from the New Mexico foster care system. Their oldest child is enlisted in the U.S. Army and is currently in basic training.

Due to Jen’s sudden and severe illness, the couple cannot travel out of state to marry in a place that does not discriminate against same-sex couples. The only way they can hope to protect their family in this time of crisis and realize their dream of being legally married is for the New Mexico courts to grant emergency relief that would allow the County of Santa Fe to issue them a marriage license now, while the case proceeds.

“Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed of growing up and getting married,” said Angelique Neuman. “I knew Jen was the one almost as soon as we met, and I don’t want to lose the opportunity to marry her. It is very important to us that our relationship is recognized as what it is: a marriage.”

The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of New Mexico, the national ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Sutin Law Firm, and Albuquerque attorneys Maureen Sanders, Kate Girard, and Lynn Perls.

Media Contacts:

Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, (415) 365-1324,
Micah McCoy, ACLU of New Mexico, (505) 266-5915 x1003,
Robyn Shepherd, ACLU National, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666,

CA Governor Brown Signs Historic Transgender Student Bill into Law

August 12, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, August 12, 2013)—Today, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the historic School Success and Opportunity Act into law, ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to fully participate and succeed in schools across the state. Assembly Bill 1266—which goes into effect on January 1, 2014—was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and passed the California State Senate and Assembly earlier this summer. The law is the first of its kind in the country. It requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can have equal access to all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities.

“I’m so excited that California is making sure transgender students have a fair chance to graduate and succeed,” said Calen Valencia, an 18-year-old transgender student from Tulare. “I should have graduated this year, but my school refused to give me the same opportunity to succeed as other boys. Now other transgender youth won’t have to choose between being themselves and graduating high school.”

Co-authored by Senators Mark Leno and Ricardo Lara and Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the bill is backed by a coalition of leading organizations, including National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California, Gender Spectrum, Transgender Law Center, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and dozens of other organizations.

The new law builds on a national movement to end discriminatory practices and ensure transgender youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other students. Massachusetts and Colorado have statewide policies in line with AB 1266, and the Colorado and Maine state human rights commissions have held that state law requires schools to respect students’ gender identity. Additionally, many school districts across the country have adopted policies that ensure no student is left out, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest school district.

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students have been often discriminated against and unfairly excluded from school facilities and physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class. For example, physical education credits are required to graduate, but transgender students often do not have the support they need to fully participate in the courses.

The supporting organizations are truly appreciative of Gov. Brown’s efforts to protect LGBT Californians and ensure all students have the opportunity to excel in our public education system.  From his support to ban harmful sexual orientation change efforts to his leadership on marriage equality to his signing of AB 1266, Gov. Brown has sent a powerful message to LGBT youth letting them know their state and their government fully support them.  In so doing, he is not only changing, but also saving lives.

Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “We are grateful to Governor Brown for his longstanding commitment to ensuring that all California students are able to attend school without discrimination or harassment. By signing AB 1266, he has made that commitment real for transgender students, who will now have the same opportunities to participate and to succeed as other students.”

Media contacts:

Erik Olvera, National Center for Lesbian Rights, 415.365.1324,
Rebecca Farmer, ACLU of California, 415.621.2493, x374,
Jesse Melgar, Equality California, 323.848.9801,
Jill Marcellus, GSA Network, 516.313.9659,
Mark Snyder, Transgender Law Center, 415.865.0176, x310,


Federal Court Rules That Widow Is Entitled to Survivor Benefits From Deceased Wife’s Employer Plan

July 29, 2013

(Philadelphia, July 29, 2013)—Today, Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered payment of death benefits to Jennifer Tobits, the widow of Sarah Ellyn Farley, under a profit-sharing plan administered by Farley’s employer, the law firm Cozen O’Conner P.C. The court held that because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was recently struck down as unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, federally-regulated retirement and benefit plans must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples for purposes of spousal benefits such as those due to Tobits.

The court’s decision relied on the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2013, decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the portion of DOMA that prohibited federal laws from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples. Referring to the DOMA decision, Judge Jones said: “Following the Court’s ruling, the term ‘Spouse’ is no longer unconstitutionally restricted to members of the opposite sex, but now rightfully includes those same-sex spouses in ‘otherwise valid marriages.’”

Judge Jones further ruled that federal laws “establish a floor for privately sponsored employee benefit plans with respect to spousal benefits. … Today’s holding makes clear … that Windsor leveled the floor.”

“I am overjoyed that the court has said my marriage to Ellyn deserves the same respect as everyone else’s,” said Tobits. “Nothing can ever replace Ellyn, but it’s a great tribute to her that the courts have rejected these challenges to our marriage and recognized our commitment to each other and the life we built together.”

The couple married in Toronto in 2006 and lived in Chicago. Two weeks after their wedding, Farley was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. The couple fought the disease together for four years until September 2010, when Farley passed away. She was 37.

Shortly after her death, Farley’s parents told her employer, Cozen O’Connor, that they should receive their daughter’s death benefits under the firm’s profit-sharing plan. Tobits also requested that she receive the benefits because she was the surviving spouse. In January 2011, Cozen O’Connor filed an action in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to determine whether Tobits or Farley’s parents should receive the benefits.

Cozen O’Connor argued in the lawsuit that DOMA prevented the firm from recognizing Farley’s marriage and treating Tobits as a surviving spouse. Farley’s parents also claimed that the Cozen O’Connor profit sharing plan was prohibited from recognizing Tobits as a surviving spouse. Today, the court rejected both of those arguments and ruled that federal law requires the plan to recognize Tobits as the surviving spouse.

National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter, who is representing Tobits, said: “Today’s decision is not only a victory for Jennifer and Ellyn, it is a victory for every married same-sex couple in the country. No longer can employers hide behind DOMA to deny equal benefits to some employees solely because their spouse is a person of the same sex.”

Attorney Teresa Renaker, who also represents Tobits, added: “This decision makes clear that federal pension law protects same-sex spouses just as it does opposite-sex spouses. Under the rationale of this decision, employees can be confident that their hard-earned retirement benefits will be there for their spouses. Protecting the retirement security of spouses is an important part of ensuring that employees get equal benefits from their retirement plans.”

NCLR and co-counsel Benjamin L. Jerner and Tiffany Palmer of Jerner & Palmer, P.C. and Teresa Renaker and Nina Wasow of Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker and Jackson, represent Tobits in the case.

Read the decision.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 |


Federal Government Resolves Complaint Filed by CA Transgender Student

July 24, 2013

(San Francisco, CA, July 24, 2013)—Today, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced a resolution to a complaint filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) on behalf of a transgender student in California’s Arcadia Unified School District. The resolution requires the school district to treat the student as male in all respects and keep his transgender status private. Furthermore, the school district agreed to revise its policies to ensure that all students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, including transgender students, have equal access and opportunity to participate in all of the district’s activities and programs. Those policy changes will be complemented by district-wide training for personnel and students. The implementation of this agreement will be overseen by a qualified expert agreed upon by the district and federal government.

The student and his family—who asked that their names not be made public–filed a complaint with OCR and DOJ in October 2011 when the school district required him to sleep in a cabin by himself instead of allowing him to room with his male peers on an overnight field trip. Not wanting to miss out on this important educational opportunity, he attended the field trip, but could not escape the feeling that he was being “quarantined” for no legitimate reason.

In addition to preventing him from fully participating in the overnight field trip, the school district excluded the student from the boys’ restroom and locker room, insisting that he use the nurse’s office. That arrangement resulted in the student being ridiculed by peers and limited his ability to participate in afterschool activities because the nurse’s restroom was locked during those times.

The student and his family are represented by the NCLR.

“I am glad that my school district has agreed to put in place the protections that I, and other transgender students, need to feel safe and welcome in school,” said the student. “Knowing that I have the school district’s suppport, I can focus on learning and being a typical high school student, like my friends.”

Said NCLR Staff Attorney Asaf Orr: “We commend the federal government for taking this necessary step to ensure that schools are safe and supportive environments where all students can thrive, including transgender students. Federal law obligates school districts to affirm and respect a transgender student’s gender identity in all of their programs, activities, and facilities. Treating transgender students based on their assigned sex at birth is psychologically harmful and interferes with their healthy social development. Hopefully, school districts will take this opportunity to proactively address the needs of transgender youth through district-wide policies and training.”

Read the resolution letter.

Read the agreement.

Read the complaint.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 |

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA): It’s Time to Protect Workers from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

July 10, 2013

By Ashland Johnson, Esq.
NCLR Policy Counsel

The envelope came early in the morning, but it wasn’t until late afternoon that I had the energy to open it. I had been in the intensive care unit for three days with a potentially fatal condition. When I saw the envelope from my employers, a university in Georgia, I automatically assumed it was the standard “get well” card. But instead of offering good wishes and prayers, this letter informed me that I was being fired from the job I’d held for over a year.

While I was shocked by the timing, ever since I had refused to sign a letter of “voluntary” resignation after my supervisor found out that I’m a lesbian, I had suspected and feared this would happen. After repeatedly being locked out of my office, left out of department meetings, and ignored by administrative officials, I was fired without any consideration of my value as an employee or my rights as an individual.

For over a month before my termination, I researched my options, tried to file a complaint based on the university’s nondiscrimination policy, and compiled evidence to support my case against my supervisor. I also requested meetings with human resources and wrote countless letters to school officials. Despite my efforts, I was simply redirected and ignored.

Since the university was no help, I decided to research my legal rights. I was surprised to discover that I essentially had no legal protections from this type of discrimination. Georgia had no state law protecting workers against discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Further, because the university had adopted its nondiscrimination policy voluntarily, it was not legally obligated to comply with it. The city I where I worked had a local nondiscrimination law, but the commission tasked with enforcing the local code was underfunded, under-resourced, and had little ability to create and enforce penalties. In short, I was shocked to discover that I had no viable legal options: I had been fired for being a lesbian, and the law provided no real protection whatsoever.

Six years later, nothing has changed. Georgia still has no state law protecting LGBT workers, and, shamefully, specific federal protections against this type of discrimination still do not exist. But today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)  approved a bill that could change this, and that is now on its way to the Senate for a vote. The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) would federally prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. This law is much needed and long overdue. Recent studies show that LGBT workers continue to face high rates of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Today, in 29 states LGBT people can be fired because they’re lesbian, gay or bisexual; in 34 states, people can be fired just because they’re transgender. A June 2012 report by the Williams Institute shows that 12 percent of the respondents have lost their job because of their sexual orientation. The incidence of discrimination faced by transgender workers is even higher. In a groundbreaking study released in 2011  by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 90 percent of respondents reported having experienced harassment or mistreatment at work and 47 percent reported having been discriminated against in hiring, promotion, or job retention because of their gender identity.  Discrimination against LGBT workers is irrational, debilitating, and unfair.  It devastates LGBT individuals and their families, jeopardizes our economic security, and undermines LGBT equality.

LGBT people and their families need ENDA now more than ever to ensure that all employees are free from unfair discrimination at work.  Everyone deserves the opportunity to work and thrive in any profession they choose, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of an inclusive ENDA will help make this a reality.

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 |


Agreement Reached in Lawsuit Against Indianapolis Public Schools For Failing to Protect Gay Student

July 10, 2013


(Indianapolis, IN, July 10, 2013)—Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Waples & Hanger announced an agreement resolving a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) filed by Dynasty Young, a former student who sued the district after officials failed to address relentless harassment he experienced at school because he is gay and does not conform to gender stereotypes.

After moving to Indianapolis and enrolling at Arsenal Tech for the 2011-2012 school year, Dynasty endured eight months of harassment and bullying by students. He and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, repeatedly turned to school officials for help. Instead of taking effective measures to address the bullying and harassment, school officials blamed Dynasty for being “too flamboyant.” Afraid for her son’s safety, Grimes made the difficult decision to give Dynasty a “self-protection flashlight,” a small device that emits light, a loud noise and an electric charge, to carry with him while at school.

On April 16, 2012, six students surrounded Dynasty to attack him. Afraid, Dynasty pulled the device out of his bag, held it in the air, and activated it, causing the aggressors to scatter without assaulting him. A district employee witnessed the incident, but instead of trying to locate the students who threatened to attack Dynasty, school officials suspended and later expelled Dynasty for trying to protect himself. Rather than return to IPS schools, Dynasty enrolled at Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school, and filed a lawsuit against IPS challenging the expulsion and school administrators’ failure to address the harassment he experienced. Dynasty graduated from Metropolitan on June 28, 2013.

As part of the agreed judgment filed by the parties in the case, IPS will expunge the expulsion from Dynasty’s school records. Dynasty will also receive $65,000 as compensation for his experience at Arsenal Tech, which he intends to use for his education. The agreed judgment must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

While the lawsuit was pending, the Indiana Legislature enacted new statewide anti-bullying legislation. The law requires schools across the state to create explicit anti-bullying plans, collect accurate data on incidents of bullying, and provide regular training for school personnel and students. With the case behind him, Dynasty intends to shift his energy and focus into assisting school districts throughout the state to effectively comply with and implement this critical, life-saving law.

Said Dynasty: “I am glad that we were able to resolve this case and that IPS was willing to take the steps needed to help me get my life back on track. Things are starting to fall back into place for me. I am really looking forward to working with school districts to meet their obligations under Indiana’s new anti-bullying law and being a resource for students who have experienced bullying.”

Added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “This case highlights how important it is for schools to protect students from harassment and bullying. The severe bullying that Dynasty endured at Arsenal Tech caused both psychological and educational harms that were compounded by the school’s insistence on blaming Dynasty for being ‘too flamboyant.’ Dynasty’s courage in bringing this lawsuit will encourage school districts to take proactive steps to stop bullying and harassment and ensure that all students are safe and have an equal chance to succeed. ”

Brent Ray, lead attorney on the case for Kirkland & Ellis LLP added: “This settlement marks the end of two very difficult years for Dynasty. He has persevered and it is great to see his positive attitude and warm spirit again. We know that Dynasty will continue to raise awareness about the serious problem of bullying in schools and look forward to seeing the great things he accomplishes.”

Media Contact:

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office:415.365.1324 |