Still Work to Be Done
Jaime Duggan on advancing LGBTQ rights in Texas
Published in 2023 Texas Rising Stars magazine
By Super Lawyers staff on March 17, 2023
Jaime Duggan was championing LGBTQ rights long before she became a lawyer. Years before she came to Texas, Duggan began volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization.
“As a member of the community,” she says, “I felt like it was important for me to be able to do whatever I could to support and change, hopefully, the legal landscape for the community.”
Eventually, a plan to attend law school stemmed from her desire to take tangible action. When Duggan arrived in Texas in 2007, however, she realized that legal protections for the LGBTQ community were much more established in her home state of California than her new one.
During law school, Duggan completed an internship with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, during which she was exposed to LGBTQ needs in a legal light. This in turn led her to pursue family law with a focus on creating protections where there were none.
“Most prevalent, especially at that time, were couples who had kids together, but both parents weren’t legal parents,” she says. “We had to work through the legal aspects of that, especially if the relationship ended.”
The work was, Duggan adds, “extremely difficult.”
In many cases, attorneys and judges had not been exposed to the nuances involved in LGBTQ family law.
Duggan has seen cases, for example, where marriages went unrecognized, and therefore divorces went unrecognized. Other times, adoptive parents couldn’t split custody, because only one had technically adopted the child.
“In a lot of cases, I was surprised by how nice the judges were, or willing to understand,” she says. “And, in a lot of cases, it was an uphill battle. It was heartbreaking and devastating.”
Outside of her practice, Duggan began serving on the HRC’s national board of directors, and as chair of its national board of governors, while gathering donations for its political action committee. She also co-chaired the HRC’s local branch in Dallas, and served on Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner board of directors—for which she helped raise over $1 million for the North Texas LGBTQ community. Most recently, she’s taken a place on the board for the Coalition for Aging LGBT.
Through all this work, Duggan has met like-minded individuals and allies, and she’s been glad to find lawyers, state officials, families and others willing to donate to the cause. “The generous spirit of people in Texas, the philanthropic giving, is such an important part of the culture, I have come to learn,” she says.
Over time, Duggan has seen the landscape change, largely owed to both exposure and education. She hopes that vocal allyship will continue moving forward, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022—and what that could mean for other policies.
“I wake up every day with optimism that there isn’t going to be a regression, that Texans are people who care about all Texans,” Duggan says. “But I absolutely am afraid. … There are things going on that are scary, that folks should be paying attention to—that, depending on a lot of factors, I think we absolutely could see some regression.”
Duggan plans to continue fundraising, and to do her part to put further protections—notably, workplace and gender expression protections—in place. Though progress has been made, she says, there is still work to be done.
“[The Marriage Equality Act] created a sort of misinformation in people’s minds, that: ‘we’re done, we’re safe, things are OK,’” she says. “That’s certainly not the case; there’s certainly more work to do.”
A Generous Spirit
Information on getting involved with the Human Rights Campaign can be found at hrc.org/get-involved.
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