Press

Attorney General Janet Reno Meets With Gay Groups To Discuss Civil Rights Issues

Date: 
September 13, 1995

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) coordinated a meeting today at the Department of Justice between gay organizations and Attorney General Janet Reno. NGLTF Executive Director Melinda Paras and Public Policy Director Helen Gonzales were part of a contingent of organizations working on gay-related civil rights issues who met with top Justice officials. The discussion focused on hate crimes, anti-gay ballot measures, and pending and potential legislative attacks on gay, lesbian and bisexual people. NGLTF requested that the Department seek ways to use the office of Attorney General and the Department as a whole to advance fair and equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Today's meeting was held in response to a request by NGLTF and other groups to meet directly with the Attorney General. That request followed the decision by the Attorney General against filing an amicus brief in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case involving Colorado's anti-gay initiative, Amendment 2. "We wanted to express our disappointment with the Department's decision in the Colorado case, and explore opportunities for the Justice Department to weigh in on future civil rights issues related to gay citizens," said Helen Gonzales, NGLTF Public Policy Director. "By meeting directly with the Attorney General, we can elevate the Department's awareness of critical civil rights issues facing the gay community. The Attorney General seemed genuinely moved when we discussed the issue of hate crimes, and interested in using her office as a bully pulpit in condemning hate violence."

"As we enter the Presidential primary season, we can expect that anti-gay rhetoric and legislative attacks will only get worse before they get better," said Melinda Paras, NGLTF Executive Director. "We need allies who support justice and fairness to be vigilant in defending basic civil rights principles. The Justice Department should be one of those allies. Our allies must not miss a single opportunity to speak out on behalf of fair and equal treatment for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals." NGLTF has been meeting with the Justice Department on various issues, and worked regularly with the Department in 1993 and 1994 while NGLTF was advocating federal mediation in the crisis involving Camp Sister Spirit in Ovett, Mississippi. Early in 1993, NGLTF met with then Attorney General-designate Janet Reno about hate violence and victim advocacy issues, and discussed other civil rights issues in a separate meeting that spring. Department of Justice Meeting Other Justice Department officials at the meeting were Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, Assistant Attorney General Eleanor Atchinson, Richard Roberts and Susan Liss of the Civil Rights Division, and Casey Cooper of the Office of Policy Development. Marsha Scott, Deputy Assistant to the President for Political Affairs, also participated in the meeting. In addition to NGLTF, other organizations participating in the meeting included the Human Rights Campaign Fund; Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; the American Civil Liberties Union; the National Advocacy Coalition on Youth and Sexual Orientation; LLEGO -- the National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund; Servicemembers Legal Defense Network; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and People for the American Way.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.