The National Bar Association was established in 1925 as the "Negro Bar Association" after Gertrude Rush, George H. Woodson, S. Joe Brown, James B. Morris were denied membership in the American Bar Association. But after almost 100 years, the nation's oldest and largest association of predominantly Black lawyers and judges apparently has fallen short of ensuring equality for its members.
The National Bar Association "overwhelmingly defeated" a measure to include LGBT nondiscrimination language in its constitution in a vote of 36-120," writes the National Black Justice Coalition's Kimberley McLeod at EBONY. "The amendment proposed that the NBA add five words to the document: 'disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.'"
"For nearly 90 years, the NBA has been a leader in the fight for civil rights and justice for all," said National Bar Association President John Page in written statement. "Like most other legal and civil rights organizations, we decided that our mission statement was not the appropriate document to express our unquestioned support of specific minority communities but as professionals and as lawyers we have a clear focus on access, rights, equality, justice and jurisprudence."
"For an organization that was formed as a harbor for Black Americans due to pervasive discrimination ... I would think the NBA would be in tune and open to other Black marginalized groups as well. If we aren't included in the policy, it is clear we aren't welcome," explians Kylar Broadus, attorney and founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition.
"How can an organization claiming to advocate on behalf of all Americans and cultivate strong legal leaders, refuse to acknowledge an entire segment of the Black community and its constituency?” asks Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. "Black LGBT lawyers and judges are Black, too. Period. We’ve had several Black LGBT attorneys share with NBJC that they’ve never felt welcomed at NBA – now we see why."
You'll recall that Kylar Bradus made history in June as the first transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate. Broadus testified at a hearing on the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The American Bar Association has included explicit non-discrimination language in its bylaws. It's also worth noting that the National Black Law Students Association's bylaws explicitly include LGBT nondiscrimination language. The younger generation of Black lawyers is obviously much more progressive on this issue. The NBA's reluctance to include LGBT non-discrimination bylaws could be a generational gap.
Read the full op-ed HERE.