An Asheville, N.C.-based LGBT advocacy group has released an online resource with a wide-ranging directory of legal resources for the South.
The Campaign for Southern Equality’s new LGBTRightsToolkit.org focuses on 12 southern states, offering directories of LGBT-friendly attorneys and physicians, information on name and gender changes and copies of state-specific forms including healthcare power of attorney, wills and hospital visitation forms.
The group said the toolkit is designed to help LGBT southerners better understand and protect their rights.
“LGBT people in the South live with great dignity and courage and are often savvy navigators of the legals system, but the reality of discrimination persists and must be addressed,” the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a press release on Monday.
The South, the Campaign said, continues to provide a hostile legal climate for LGBT people, despite a third of the nation’s LGBT people calling the region their home. The toolkit will help connect individuals with the proper resources and empower them to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families.
The need for the toolkit became more apparent as the Campaign for Southern Equality traveled across the region presenting their Community Law Workshops. At the events, volunteers and lawyers assist individuals in navigating legal questions, preparing wills and power of attorney forms, among other protections. At one such workshop at Charlotte Pride last year, just one of 13 such events, 144 people were able to complete healthcare power of attorney forms for free.
“We’ve really bulked up the resource lists over the past 18 months,” Campaign Communications Director Aaron Sarver told qnotes. “We get a good amount of calls and emails looking for LGBT-friendly attorneys. We’re always updating and building out those lists. And we’re just scratching the surface really.”
Sarver said some lists and resources on the Campaign’s main website have been gaining a lot of traffic over the past two years. They decided to take the resources among the most popular and provide easier access to them.
“We decided to make a more web friendly version and specifically build out the healthcare power of attorney forms and name change docs; there is a very high demand for those resources,” Sarver said.
The Campaign’s online resource is among the first of its kind in the South, though Sarver noted several other groups have been working in the South, as well, including Lambda Legal, state ACLU chapters and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Focus on southern LGBT equality and organizing has grown over the past couple years, with national groups like the Human Rights Campaign launching their own southern organizing efforts. HRC’s Project One America has run advocacy and education ads on Mississippi TV stations, as well as placing field organizers in three states — Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.