We're Not Just a Pretty Face: Broadway, Lambda Legal and the Fight for Justice in NYC

By Benjamin Solomon
09 Jun 2014

Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

As part of Playbill.com's 30 Days of Pride coverage, celebrating LGBT Pride Month across America, we profile the individuals and vital organizations beyond the footlights, who are making a difference within the community.

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You can't have justice without a good lawyer. So it's a good thing the LGBT community has one of the best.

As the nation's oldest and largest LGBT legal organization, Lambda Legal fights to win equality for the entire LGBT community as well as people living with HIV. Not only is the organization integral to the battle for marriage equality, but Lambda Legal is also at the front lines on a variety of other issues facing the community, from workplace discrimination and HIV criminalization, to marriage family cases and youth rights.

"We have made a lot of progress, but we also know that there is much more to be done," says Kevin Cathcart, longtime executive director of the 41-year-old non-profit. The progress Cathcart and his hard-working team of pro-bono litigators, educators and public policy makers are talking about include many issues here in New York, like passing New York’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act and working with the Cuomo administration to help curb over-policing of transgender people.



The local Broadway community has been a key ally in these efforts, with several members of the theatre community serving on Lambda Legal's board. Cathcart also points out that many LGBT writers and performers have helped Lambda Legal move hearts and minds with a vision of justice — from Larry Kramer and Harvey Fierstein to Tony Kushner and Laverne Cox.

When Bob Avian, the Tony Award-winning choreographer of A Chorus Line, watched his husband, Peter Pileski, get involved with Lambda Legal's national board, he saw firsthand how much the non-profit does for the community. "I think most important [to me] was marriage equality, which, thanks to Lambda, has happened so quickly," he explains. "Lambda Legal gets results. They go into the courts and get laws changed."

Avian also explains that Broadway's long-time support of out, gay men means it is an important ally in the fight for LGBT equality. "In the arts community, most of us who are gay are out, which can only help our community," says Avian. "We can be vocal and supportive [of organizations like] Lambda and not be afraid and shout it from the rooftops."

With Avian's help, Cathcart will continue to shout, even after Lambda Legal is victorious. "There are so many more challenges ahead that it would be a mistake for the New Yorkers to think that marriage solves everything," he urges. "Young people are still harassed in school, homeless LGBTQ youth rates continue to be high in New York, housing discrimination is still a problem. We are far from having this battle won in New York or anywhere else in this country."

Visit LambdaLegal.org for more info.