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Our Impact

Defending LBGTQ+ Communities in and out of the Courtroom

Following years of advocacy by The Legal Aid Society, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, New York State’s Medicaid program now pays for the health care that low-income transgender and gender non-conforming individuals need and deserve.

Pictured to the right is Mia Ballard, a named plaintiff in the groundbreaking case that signaled a change in the law, promoting the need for equality and inclusiveness in the healthcare system across New York State.

The Legal Aid Society is proud to stand beside Mia and others as we work to make New York a more inclusive and compassionate place to live.

No New Yorker should be denied medically necessary, gender affirming health care, and we are glad to see that Albany finally recognizes this right.

Heidi Bramson Staff Attorney with the Health Law Unit

40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+

Our LGBT Law and Policy Initiative works with clients, staff members, and partner organizations on a daily basis, juggling a number of initiatives to spread awareness and make an impact for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. Our paralegals are deeply involved with every facet of the Initiative’s work, most importantly supporting the brave and invaluable class action litigation plaintiffs. Impact litigation makes a lasting difference by challenging the systemic injustices that members of the LGBTQ+ communities face every day.

In recent years, the Initiative has focused on a group of New Yorkers that have long been overlooked: homeless youth. While over 40% of homeless youth in our city identify as LGBTQ+, these young New Yorkers lack essential support. But, things are looking better for these vulnerable youths. New York City just announced it will be opening its first shelter to assist LGBTQ+ homeless youth.

By the Numbers

Many of our LGBTQ+ clients who come from low-income communities and communities of color often live at the intersections of multiple oppressions. Our work helps them overcome the obstacles keeping them from thriving in New York City.


Of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+.


Of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers believe they have been discriminated against by a potential or current employer.


Of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers have been denied equal treatment or services in public.

NYS Mandates Medicaid Health Plans To Provide Coverage To Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming New Yorkers

The Legal Aid Society, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project lauded guidelines promulgated by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) that address a variety of ways in which Medicaid Managed Care plans have been arbitrarily denying care to transgender and gender non-conforming Medicaid beneficiaries for the treatment of gender dysphoria. These guidelines clearly state that treatment for gender dysphoria must be provided to people of all genders, including those with non-binary gender identities.

In 2014, The Legal Aid Society, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Willkie Farr & Gallagher filed Cruz v. Zucker to challenge a New York State regulation that banned Medicaid coverage for transgender health care. That case led to a repeal of the ban and an amended regulation, which became effective in December 2016, requiring Medicaid coverage for all medically necessary transgender health care for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria (GD). The Legal Aid Society now regularly represents transgender Medicaid recipients to enforce the right to gender affirming care secured through Cruz v. Zucker.

The Initiative’s collaborative impact litigation cases are a vital advocacy tool. Impact litigation and partnerships with community organizations and coalitions are vital to addressing patterns of neglect and oppression that LGBTQ+ communities face. Homophobic, transphobic, racist, and sexist discrimination affects many aspects of our clients lives from to employment to incarceration. Pushing for reform in policy, law, and practices creates a framework for societal change

Plaintiff Angie Cruz speaks at the Pro Bono Publico Awards Ceremony

A contribution to The Legal Aid Society is about more than money.

Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.

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