National Center For Lesbian Rights
San Francisco, CA
Camilo M. Ortiz is working as a law clerk at the National Center For Lesbian Rights (NCLR). NCLR is a national organization that advocates for the most vulnerable members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, including the poor, young, and of color LGBT individuals. Specifically, Camilo is working alongside NCLR’s policy counsel on a variety of issues including: obtaining fair Section 8 housing for lesbian and gay families, fair shelter programs for transgender individuals, and fair treatment for all LGBT individuals under state-specific laws. Camilo is the first Seattle University law student to clerk for NCLR. Prior to joining NCLR, Camilo worked at various organizations including the ACLU of Southern California and Just the Beginning Foundation. Most recently, Camilo was a Rule 9 Intern at Seattle University's Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic where he provided public defense for juveniles. Camilo also authored a law review article, titled "Latinos Nowhere in Sight: Erased by Racism, Nativism, the Black-White Binary, and Authoritarianism," which will be published in the Rutgers Race & the Law Review (forthcoming). This Fall, Camilo will continue his passion in the area of civil and human rights law and work as a law clerk at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.
7 weeks have already passed since I started my internship at NCLR. In those 7 weeks I have touched upon a host of issues including: section 8 housing discrimination against lesbian and gay families, shelter discrimination against transgender individuals, employment discrimination against lesbian and gay employees, and discrimination against LGBT youth in public schools. In turn, I have drafted policy memos, provided comments on HUD regulations, briefed the federal policy director on pending legal matters affecting the LGBT community, and attended a variety of congressional hearings on "the hill", as well as coalition meetings. It has been a whirlwind of legal research, public policy writing, and oral advocacy.
I still remember my very first assignment and the feeling of having to navigate in an area of law and policy that I knew very little about. I was assigned to research the mechanics of HUD’s voucher program under section 8 housing and specifically identify how the dual screening process (a process that is required when a family seeks to move from one section 8 housing location to another) adversely affects the LGBT community. I was provided with HUD’s general rule on its section 8 voucher program, a PowerPoint that highlighted HUD’s history and progress with the LGBT community, and the suggestion that I look at our organization’s research on the different ways the LGBT community has been discriminated against. I was also told that my research would be included in NCLR’s official “comments” submission to HUD, which would be posted on the Federal Register in the following weeks. I couldn't have felt more overwhelmed, challenged, and vulnerable when I was given this task. On my first day, I was not only being required to learn an entirely new subject, but then given the additional burden that my findings might ultimately be posted online for the world to see! But, I had to chart a course. Through my notes, provided literature, Westlaw, Google, and ongoing conversations with my supervisor, I eventually compiled a body of research that was worthy of the task and helped identify, for example, that the dual screening process disproportionately affected individuals with criminal records, which included the LGBT community.
Round upon round of the comments to HUD were circulated and edited along with many of my initial arguments and research findings. In the end, much of what I researched was cut out, but some remained. While I would have liked to have seen all of my efforts displayed in the comments to HUD, I know that what wasn’t shown, at least conjured up new arguments and ideas for a better crafted final draft. The final version of the comments was officially submitted several weeks later. What began with feelings of helplessness grew into a feeling of great accomplishment.
July 24, 2012
I am now half way through my 11th week at NCLR with only a couple of days left before I end my term here. What happened to the time? Since my last journal entry, I have been working on several new projects, all of which have been teaching me the tireless (and often endless) work that is required in public policy advocacy.
First, I have been working on a state legislative review project where I must scour through the list of a state’s U.S. codes and identify key words, phrases, or terms that may be both beneficial and detrimental to the LGBT community in that state. So, for example, I have been searching for such words as “spouse,” “gender,” and “family” – to name a few – and summarizing the corresponding statutory law. Eventually, this information will be part of a report, which will allow us determine how this State treats families of all types, and if applicable, to broaden the State’s understanding about the importance of fairness and equality under the law.
Second, I have been conducting legal research on the connecting issues of privacy, sex discrimination claims, and transgender identity within employment law. For example, I have been searching for case law that discusses the intersection of sex-segregated restrooms (or other similar restroom policies), the restricted use of such restrooms by transgender individuals, and the legally accepted privacy rights of both the public and transgender individual. This has been a fascinating project for me particularly because it raises so many different legal, cultural, and social understandings about how we view ourselves and each other. This research will be part of NCLR’s ongoing effort to help HUD provide greater protections to the LGBT community.
Third, I have been working on a judicial nominations project, which is a first of its kind at NCLR. Similar to other organizations that monitor, assess, and provide reports on the federal and state judicial nominations process, NCLR will seek to do the same. Because we are at the initial stages, my primary responsibilities have been to collect as much information about the judicial nomination process, pinpoint the issues that other organizations have focused on, and identify new or missed opportunities that NCLR can take up. This has probably been one of my most demanding projects since joining NCLR because I am literally constructing an organizational plan from the ground up. That said, this has been one the most rewarding projects as well.
With only a couple of days left, it is more than likely that I won’t be able to see many of my projects to the end. It will be the job of the next law clerk. However, it has been an amazing intellectual journey to work at NCLR, not to mention rewarding. This clerkship has been a wonderful opportunity.