Issues: Transgender


NCLR has advocated for transgender clients and issues since its inception. Transgender people and their families face many of the same legal issues confronted by lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and families, and often encounter additional obstacles based on stereotypes, misinformation and, in many cases, open hostility. NCLR is working to change that.

NCLR is proud to have been the first LGBT legal organization to launch a Transgender Law Project, which later became an organization in its own right, the Transgender Law Center. Today, we are a national leader in shaping transgender law, and our Legal Director, Shannon Minter, is recognized as a leading architect and visionary of the transgender rights movement.

Currently, thirteen states plus the District of Columbia offer explicit anti-discrimination protection for transgender people. In addition, over 120 companies protect their transgender employees through explicit anti-discrimination policies. Transgender people are increasingly visible, telling their stories in print and broadcast media, community meetings, and classrooms. And gains have been made in protecting the families and relationships of transgender people. Amidst this progress, however, violence, discrimination, and severe legal difficulties persist.

NCLR is committed to assuring that all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can live fully and freely, treated fairly and humanely under the law.

We continue to make progress in realizing that vision.

legal director | Shannon Price Minter

Legal Director Shannon Price Minter joined the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1993. Minter has guided NCLR’s litigation and program work for over 10 years. He has been lead counsel in dozens of groundbreaking legal victories including Sharon Smith’s unprecedented victory in her wrongful death lawsuit. He has litigated many other impact cases across the country. In 2005, Minter was one of 18 people to receive the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World” award. In 2004, Minter was awarded an Honorary Degree from the City University of New York School of Law for his advocacy on behalf of same-sex couples and their families. He has also received the Anderson Prize Foundation Creating Change Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the distinguished national service award from GAYLAW, the bar association for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lawyers, law students, and legal professionals in Washington, D.C. Minter serves on the boards of Equality California and the Transgender Law & Policy Institute. He received a J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1993.

Minter is co-editor of Transgender Rights, the first comprehensive book on the transgender civil rights movement.

When Minter was selected for the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World” award, Liz Seaton, Deputy Legal Director, Human Rights Campaign, and Anthony E. Varona, Associate Professor of Law, Pace University wrote: “Frankly, it is hard to find a transgender law or policy project—large or small—anywhere in the country that he has not been involved in, advised on, or influenced through his scholarship, education, or advocacy efforts. At the same time, Shannon devotes enormous amounts of time to giving voice to, mentoring, and meeting the daily survival needs of transgender people across the country.”

transgender law | how we can help

NCLR has served transgender people since our founding in 1977. We have transgender attorneys and members of the transgender community on staff.

NCLR represents transgender adults, families, and youth on a wide range of issues:

  • Employment, housing, and public accommodations discrimination
  • Immigration, asylum, and bi-national marriage
  • Family law (marriage, parentage, child custody and visitation, adoption and foster parenting)
  • Elder law (aging and end-of-life issues)
  • Healthcare (full and equal access to healthcare, fertility treatment)
  • Sports (gender identity discrimination in sports)
  • Youth (harassment, discrimination, failure to accommodate transgender and gender-non-conforming youth and students in schools, foster care, and juvenile justice systems)
  • Prison ssues (harassment, discrimination, failure to accommodate transgender prisoners, denial of health care, violence)

Technical Assistance for Attorneys
NCLR provides technical assistance to attorneys representing transgender clients. If you are an attorney seeking assistance, please email our legal director Shannon Minter at, staff attorney Jody Marksamer at, or legal assistant Joshua Delgado at

We can help you locate and prepare expert witnesses, develop legal strategies, and ensure that you have the most up-to-date legal research.

case study | kantaras v. kantaras

In June 2005, love, patience, and persistence, combined with a visionary judge and a little help from Dr. Phil, led to an historic settlement agreement between NCLR client Michael Kantaras and his former wife.

Michael, a transgender father, had been fighting for nearly seven years to retain his parental rights to his two children, aged 16 and 13. This case first made national and international news in 2002, when Court TV aired the entire three week dissolution and custody trial. Michael's former wife knew he was transgender when they married, but when Michael filed for divorce, she attacked the validity of their ten-year marriage—and Michael's status as a legal parent to the couple's two children—based solely on Michael's transgender status. In February 2003, Circuit Court Judge Gerard O'Brien issued a groundbreaking 800-page decision holding that Michael was legally male, affirming the validity of the marriage, and awarding Michael primary custody of the couple's two children.

In July 2004, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge O'Brien's historic Order, voiding the former couple's marriage. The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to determine Michael's parental rights. After hearing about the case, television personality Dr. Phil invited the couple to be on his show and encouraged them to mediate the case for the sake of the children. After two all-day mediation sessions, the parties reached a settlement in which Michael retained all of his parental rights and responsibilities, and today shares legal custody with the children's mother.

Thanks to Michael’s courage and determination, he not only won the precious custody of his beloved children for which he fought so hard, but his case’s airing on Court TV was a very valuable educational experience for many people. His appearances on TV and in other media brought a lot of positive visibility to transgender people, parents, and families.


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