Pro Bono/Discounted Legal Support Offered For LGBT Community
No matter where on the political spectrum they stand, November’s election night lives on in the minds of Americans. As results ticked in and it slowly became clear that Donald Trump would emerge as the president-elect, voters were either disheartened or elated. For one group, fears were stoked and questions were raised.
“Literally starting the morning after the election, my inbox was flooded with emails from LGBT folks who are scared of what comes next,” says Sunny Eaton, a visible and openly gay figure of Nashville’s LGBT community and law partner in Eastside Legal, a progressive firm with a history of supporting gay rights. “People are afraid that their marriages will be overturned. I fielded a lot of questions about adoption and parental rights between couples. Transgender individuals have been under attack all year, even before these election results — they have a lot of reasons to be afraid.”
To date, over 200 members of the LGBT community have contacted Eaton with questions about how a Trump presidency and GOP-led Congress could threaten their rights. In her legal opinion, their concerns are merited.
While it is all but legally impossible to invalidate same-sex couples that are already married, Eaton does expect to see efforts on federal and state levels to undermine the rights that come with same-sex marriage and to add obstacles for those trying to marry their partners. She is concerned about potential state efforts to challenge same-sex couples with children. For transgender people, she recommends updating identity documents as soonas possible.
Of course, taking legal precautions is easier said than done. That’s why Eaton has begun gathering the necessary resources on a volunteer basis for those who might not be able to afford to defend their rights.
“So far, we have more than 60 attorneys and notaries who are offering their services at either free or highly discounted rates to get LGBT individuals and families protected,” Eaton says. “We are supported, and there are a lot of people out there willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we are protected.”
Eaton started a GoFundMe page, “LGBT Legal Relief Fund,” to provide downloadable legal documents for self-protection, to connect the LGBT community with lawyers who are offering discounted and free services, and to raise additional money. So far, the effort has raised about $3,000, well short of the $20,000 that Eaton estimates would be necessary to completely cover the costs of those who have contacted her.
Eaton is currently on an extended stay with her family in South America and is coordinating these efforts from abroad. Her connection to East Nashville and its role as a haven for the LGBT community has motivated her to stay involved stateside.
“East Nashville has a particularly high concentration of LGBT families, and this area of town is by far the most progressive and has been for a long time,” she says. “I was in as much shock as everyone else after the election, but being here, there was very little outlet for me to channel those feelings. I can’t commiserate over beers with friends, I can’t protest, I can’t file lawsuits. I had to do something with all of these emotions and what occurred to me is that I can connect people to resources at home. I can remind people that there is an entire community supporting them, and they need only reach out for help.”