Chuck Williams and Stu Walter give a $2.5 million planned gift to establish the first-ever LGBT academic research institution at a law school to ensure facts — not stereotypes — inform laws and policies.
What happened next?
Over the next two decades, the Williams Institute’s research would inform federal legislation, such as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Equality Act. The Institute’s research would also influence presidential executive orders and Supreme Court decisions — including Obergefell v. Hodges, Bostock v. Clayton County, and most recently, Justice Sotomayor’s dissent in 303 Creative v. Elenis.
The Williams Institute submits its first amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas, arguing that sodomy laws violate the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws, holding that the laws violate the fundamental, constitutional rights of LGBTQ people.
What is an amicus brief?
An amicus brief is a legal document filed by an individual or organization that is not a party to a case but assists the court by offering information, expertise, or insight that bears on relevant issues.
The novel legal argument presented by Williams Institute Founding Faculty Chair Bill Rubenstein in the Institute’s first amicus brief was hailed by the Boston Globe as a strategy that would appeal to more conservative Supreme Court Justices. Justice O’Connor adopted the argument, providing the sixth vote in favor of striking down sodomy laws.
Williams Institute Executive Director Brad Sears testifies before Congress on legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The White House cites Williams Institute research in support of an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Who met the President?
Founding Executive Director Brad Sears and Legal Director Christy Mallory were at the White House on July 21, 2014, for President Obama’s signing of Executive Order 13672.
The U.S. Supreme Court cites research by Williams Institute Research Director Gary J. Gates on the children of same-sex parents in its decision to extend marriage equality nationwide.
How data changed minds
Justice Kennedy explains that Williams Institute estimates on the number of children being raised by same-sex couples helped shape the landmark decision.
“The nature of injustice is you can’t see it in your own time. It seemed to me just wrong under the Constitution that over 100,000 adopted children of gay parents could not have their parents marry.”
The Williams Institute releases the first state and national estimates of the transgender population. This research continues to be the Institute’s most cited report in the media.
How many transgender people live in the US?
Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar Jody Herman updated those original estimates in 2022, showing that approximately 1.6 million people ages 13 and older identify as transgender in the United States. This includes about 300,000 youth ages 13-17.
The Supreme Court rules that the First Amendment’s free speech protections allow a website designer in Colorado to refuse to serve same-sex couples. In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor cites Williams Institute research showing the continuing high levels of public accommodations discrimination against LGBT people.
What are the implications of the case?
In an amicus brief, Williams Institute scholars explained that three decades of research by Distinguished Senior Scholar Ilan H. Meyer shows that when a business refuses to serve LGBT people, the experience can add to “minority stress” and result in adverse mental and physical health outcomes.
Echoing this research, Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion emphasizes that the “fundamental object” of public accommodations laws is “to vindicate the deprivation of personal dignity that accompanies discrimination and causes stigmatizing injury.”
"The research the Williams Institute conducts on the lives and needs of LGBTQ individuals helps us write and correct public policies that improve the lives of millions.”
“All of this work continues to change minds and laws and policies, not to mention lives. I could not be more grateful for the collaboration between the U.S. government and the Williams Institute.”
“When I joined the Williams Institute, I gained the tools to understand how law and policy are key levers to change — and I learned how to conduct interdisciplinary research for the first-time.”
“The Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellowship gave me everything. It gave me a space in which I could find my bearing and voice and see people doing cutting edge rigorous research and connecting it to real world impacts.”
"Early on when Chuck Williams established the Institute, he had a vision. He knew that to achieve success, he had to have the knowledge, the research, the data, and the science in order for judgements to be made that would make a difference."
“Being a Williams Institute Fellow set the stage for a lot of the work that I do today thinking about how vulnerable groups can use medicine in order to seek new rights.”
“The Williams Institute has been invaluable over the years to me and many others advocating for LGBTQ+ equality. Its reliable data and careful analyses have been essential to clarify problems and eradicate myths about our community. The Institute has moved forward the cause of equality immeasurably.”
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