Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

Making the case for equality

aka Lambda Legal   |   New York, NY   |


Founded in 1973, Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving the full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ people, and all persons living with HIV through impact litigation, public education, and policy work. We successfully use strategic and collaborative advocacy to press for passage of laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status and to defeat efforts to repeal or weaken such civil rights protections.

Ruling year info



Mr. Kevin Jennings

Main address

120 Wall St 19th floor

New York, NY 10005 USA

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NTEE code info

Lesbian/Gay Rights (R26)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (W01)

Public Interest Law/Litigation (I83)

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Lambda Legal is committed to achieving the full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, and all persons living with HIV through impact litigation, public education, and public policy work. Lambda Legal successfully uses strategic and collaborative advocacy to press for passage of laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status and to defeat efforts to repeal or weaken such civil rights protections. In courtrooms across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court, in state legislatures, city councils, and in the public square, we mobilize LGBTQ advocates, allies, community organizations and for-profit businesses to support meaningful civil rights progress on behalf of the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV, our advocacy ultimately benefits LGBTQ persons across all borders of race, gender, ethnicity, culture, age, social class, and educational achievement.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Protecting Families & Defending the Freedom to Marry

We will protect the hard-won rights of the LGBTQ community to marriage equality through a broad range of litigation, education and advocacy strategies. Lambda Legal fights for full, lived marriage equality, which means that married same-sex couples must be treated the same as married different-sex couple. This extends to the right to adopt or foster children and insuring that LGBT older adults can access all of the systems designed to support healthy, successful aging in this country.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people
People with HIV/AIDS

Lambda Legal works to focus the attention of the LGBTQ community and professionals serving youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, youth in schools, and youth experiencing homelessness. We advance reform through litigation, proactive law and policy development, youth engagement, and education. Our advocacy for affirming laws and policies and supportive treatment of LGBTQ youth in schools and in out-of-home care leads to improved long-term educational outcomes and reduces negative public health consequences for LGBTQ youth and youth living with HIV. LGBTQ youth of color are disproportionately over-represented in out-of-home care systems due to systemic racism and other societal inequities.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Non-adult children

Lambda Legal’s HIV Project works to expand protections across the country for people living with HIV by pursuing impact litigation, education, and advocacy to combat bias and stereotypes and to ensure that people are treated fairly by employers, health care providers and others. We also apply our legal expertise to policy issues affecting people living with HIV — including HIV testing, collection of private information about behaviors and sexual partners, access to medical care and treatment and HIV prevention.

Population(s) Served
People with HIV/AIDS
LGBTQ people

LGBTQ people and people living with HIV face particular heath challenges and obstacles obtaining appropriate health care because of hostility and discrimination. Difficulties in obtaining health care and health insurance can be especially devastating for those already most vulnerable, including those with limited income, newer immigrants, those who speak limited English, those with less education, many people of color, and many seniors. Lambda Legal helps LGBTQ people and people with HIV fight back when they are unlawfully denied coverage or care or when their relationships or health care choices are not given the respect to which they are entitled under law.

Population(s) Served
People with HIV/AIDS
LGBTQ people

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and transgender status as unlawful sexual discrimination, LGBTQ Americans are still being fired, harassed, and targeted at work. Workplace issues continue to be the number one concern among callers to our National Legal Help Desk.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people
People with HIV/AIDS

We work to protect nonbinary and transgender people’s access to healthcare and to dismantle barriers in accessing accurate identity documents. Transgender and nonbinary people suffer persistent inequalities in aspects of life that intersect with all of Lambda Legal's issue area priorities: rampant workplace discrimination; challenges to their parental relationships; sufficient access to quality healthcare free from discrimination; and difficulties in obtaining appropriate name and gender designations on their identity documents. Lambda Legal expands and defends protections for transgender and nonbinary people under federal, state and local laws and other policies.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people
Intersex people

Fair and impartial courts are a cornerstone of our democracy. The Fair Courts Project provides tools and information to counter harmful attacks on the courts that threaten LGBTQ and HIV-related civil rights and jeopardize the ability of our courts to make decisions based on constitutional and legal principles—not politics or popular opinion. We will continue to oppose judicial nominations that have a hostile bias against the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable populations.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people
Incarcerated people

Lambda Legal defends the rights of LGBT and HIV positive seniors who face discrimination related to their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status, including discrimination by staff and residents at senior centers; denial of housing; denial of the ability for same-sex couples to share a room in an assisted living facility or nursing home; disrespect of gender identity including while incapacitated or at death; and insuring that surviving spouses receive equal Social Security benefits and survivor benefits.

Population(s) Served
LGBTQ people

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our 2021-26 Strategic Plan identified five strategic goals: 1. Cementing ourselves as leaders in securing legal equality for our community. 2. Advancing legal reform through litigation and policy advocacy on a prioritized set of issues. 3. Embedding Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion – particularly racial and transgender/gender nonconforming equality – into every aspect of Lambda Legal’s work and organizational culture. 4. Securing our long-term financial health. 5. Making Lambda Legal a household name to those who care about LGBTQ+ equality.

We have made winning new protections for the most vulnerable in our community a primary goal of our work through 2026. Because we know that some members of our community are more likely to face discrimination and mistreatment than others, we are prioritizing work on behalf of these seven populations: 1) LGBTQ people facing systemic discrimination in housing, public accommodations, social services, and credit; 2) LGBTQ Youth in schools and other government systems such as foster care; 3) LGBTQ Seniors; 4) Transgender/gender-nonconforming people needing health care, identity documents, and other forms of care and recognition; 5) People facing bias in the justice system and policing such as LGBTQ people of color and people engaging in sex work; 6) People living with HIV facing criminalization and discrimination; and 7) LGBTQ Immigrants seeking asylum and/or in detention.

Lambda Legal works to achieve its goals through impact litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education, and we work on issues at the national, state, and local levels. Consonant with our 2021 – 2026 Strategic Plan, Lambda Legal identifies potentially harmful legislation early in its development; crafts litigation strategies should it be necessary to sue; works with potential clients whose cases will be the public face of such litigation; puts in place a communications strategy to educate the public about the issues of the case; and represents Lambda Legal’s clients, both in court and in the court of public opinion.

Lambda Legal goes to court with cases we believe we can win, and which hold the potential to further equality for the LGBTQ community. But we go to court fully aware of what we may face: a federal judiciary largely transformed by Trump-era appointees who are significantly more hostile toward LGBTQ people, with nearly 40% of Trump’s confirmed federal appellate judges having demonstrated anti-LGBTQ bias, which we documented in our January 2021 “Courts, Confirmations, & Consequences: How Trump Restructured the Federal Judiciary and Ushered in a Climate of Unprecedented Hostility toward LGBTQ+ People and Civil Rights.” We have won significant victories in courtrooms of judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans. Lambda Legal makes careful decisions about which court to litigate which issue and will not do so in those jurisdictions where it seems impossible to make our case successfully.

We face an uphill battle in state legislatures, where the political climate has shifted dramatically rightward, and has resulted in a dramatic uptick of anti-trans legislation introduced at the state level. This requires that we pay constant close attention to developments in multiple legislatures, and be ready to consult with allied lawmakers to help defeat such measures or mitigate their impact.

Lambda Legal is confident that we have the winning strategies, the most experienced legal practitioners in this field, and the firm belief in social justice and equality that will propel us to victory in the cases we litigate and the legislative and regulatory relief we seek.

Lambda Legal is staffed by highly experienced and knowledgeable attorneys with unique subject matter expertise. Every case we bring is fully briefed, and in each instance of objectionable legislation, a proposed bill is fully reviewed, and potential allies are identified for efforts to modify, defeat or win. In our public policy work, we monitor local, state, and federal initiatives that impact the LGBTQ community, employing state-of-the art software that also allows us to identify trends. We work in partnership with like-minded organizations (for example, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its state affiliates, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and various state-wide Equality groups) to achieve our mutual goals. A “whole of agency” approach is used to respond to subject matter issues, and our lawyers from offices across the country work in cross-departmental teams to maximize their expertise.

Lambda Legal has a robust Communications department with extensive print and broadcast contacts and deep social media strategy, utilizing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Our website, offers current and historic information about our policies and cases. So that we may achieve our Strategic Plan goals of expanding our impact and making Lambda Legal a “household name,” we continue to refine our communications strategy to better reach our target audiences through email, social media, and print.

Lambda Legal has helped to effect dramatic social change through historic courtroom victories and policy work in support of marriage equality, transgender rights, employment equality, HIV criminalization, provision of accurate identity documents and more. Our successes benefit not only our plaintiffs, the broader community and American democracy, but the people we work with every day.

We have been trailblazers in ending inequality against the LGBTQ community and all people living with HIV since our inception. We challenged a ban on school activity by a gay student group at the University of New Hampshire in 1974, and won the nation’s first HIV/AIDS discrimination case in 1983. In 2003, we persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn all remaining state sodomy laws in the US. In 2009, we won an historic unanimous decision in Iowa Supreme Court that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, paving the way for marriage equality, in which we were co-counsel in the historic Obergefell v. Hodges case at the Supreme Court. In 2022, we won a multi-year court battle on behalf of people living with HIV, who may now deploy and commission as officers in the U.S. military. The groundbreaking ruling represents a landmark moment in the fight to advance the rights of people living with HIV and reflects the reality that HIV is a chronic, treatable condition, not a reason to discriminate.

Today we face a systematic onslaught on our rights by far-right politicians across the country with an unprecedented barrage of bills targeting the LGBTQ community, and non-binary and transgender youth in particular. And despite a more enlightened Administration, we must still litigate in a judicial climate where one-quarter of all sitting circuit judges were appointed by Donald Trump. Lambda Legal serves as a firewall against heightened attacks on the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV, and we remain resolute in our fight to create a world where LGBTQ people and those living with HIV are respected, protected, and celebrated. We continue to do so by pursuing impact litigation and public policy advocacy in four areas:

• Defending LGBTQ identities and relationships
• Strengthening legal protections against LGBTQ discrimination
• Challenging policies harming the health and well-being of LGBTQ people and all individuals living with HIV
• Rooting out anti-LGBTQ bias in the justice system

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback


Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 08/23/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Lauren Mutti

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits

Term: 2024 - 2022

David de Figueiredo

Yemi Adegbonmire

Jordan Heinz

Eric Johnson

John F. Stafstrom

Patrick S. Menasco

Andrew T. Mitchell-Namdar

Lauren Mutti

Danielle Piergallini

Michael Angelo

Peter Barbur

Diane Bell

Maureen Bennett

John Blazek

Angel Burgos

Meg Columbia-Walsh

Beck Fineman

Robert Garcia

Bill Hardin

Joanne Herman

Glenn Hessel

Cynthia Hill

Carl Jones, Jr.

Angelo Lim

Madeleine McDonough

Beth Meyerson

Connie Montoya

Patrick O'Keeffe

Kecia Reynolds

Michelle Riley

Fred Smith

Heather Steans

Steven Thornton

Ian Tzeng

Richard Wester

Amber Whittington

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/6/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/23/2023

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.