|Masen David and Krista Wertz of Tenderloin Law Center, Judge Victoria Kolakowski, BALIF co-chair David Tsai and TLCâs Ilona Turner at BALIF VIP soiree. PHOTOâBYâRINK
Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF) is the nationâs oldest and largest bar association of LGBTQ persons in the field of law.
Founded in 1980, BALIF represents its membersâ interests in the wider San Francisco Bay Area. BALIF members and supporters include San Francisco Bay Area judges, lawyers, law students and legal workers. BALIF was founded to encourage LGBTQ legal professionals to apply to become judges. At the time there were no openly LGBTQ judges. Today there are many.
BALIF also started the organization that grew to become the now-independent AIDS Legal Referral Panel, which has provided free and low-cost legal assistance to over 50,000 people since it was founded in 1983.
Today, BALIFâs mission has expanded. The group takes action on questions of law and justice that affect the LGBTQ community; strengthens professional and social ties among LGBTQ members of the legal profession; builds coalitions with other legal organizations to combat all forms of discrimination; promotes the appointment of LGBTQ attorneys to the judiciary, public agencies and commissions in the Bay Area; funds scholarships for LGBTQ law students and fellowships for public interest lawyers working on LGBTQ issues; and provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information of concern to members of the LGBTQ legal community.
Celebrating its 32nd year, BALIF held a gala awards banquet at SF Museum of Modern Art. âTonight we celebrate San Francisco values,â said Gala Co-chair Jamie Dupree. âWe celebrate diversity, community, leadership, inclusion, professionalism, pride, courage, mentorship and many others,â said Co-chair Laura Maechtlen. âOur membership is larger than ever, the organization is flourishing and we have cause to celebrate some hometown heroes,â said Co-chair John Robert Unruh.
âWe celebrate justice in honoring both Karen Golinski and her outstanding legal team for their fight for equality for same-sex spouses, as well as the Transgender Law Center for their civil rights advocacy on behalf of Ashley Yang and other transgender individuals,â said BALIF Co-chair David Tsai. âThis past year, BALIF redoubled its efforts to be present and involved in our local community,â said BALIF Co-chair Chelsea Haley Nelson. Mayor Ed Lee sent proclamations from the City to the co-chairs.
The Community Service Award was presented to the Transgender Law Center, accepted by Ilona Turner, ILC legal director. TLC works to change law, policy and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.
The Legal Service Award was presented to Morrison & Foerster LLP and Lambda Legal, accepted by Rita F. Lin, associate at Morrison & Foerster and by Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal staff attorney. The award is given each year recognizing the outstanding achievements of lawyers and organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to LGBTQ equality and have significantly advanced those causes through their work in the law.
Scholarships were granted to Sterling Johnson, UC Hastings, class of â12; Chris Chou, Stanford â12; Tuan Ngo, Hastings â13; and Darrick Ing, Golden Gate University School of Law â12.