CHICAGO — The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed its appreciation for the contributions and commitment of lawyers from the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis in a Michigan case that overturned a state ban on government employers extending health care coverage to gay and lesbian domestic partners. The ACLU, with the help of lawyers from Kirkland, prevailed in the case of Bassett v. Snyder, assuring fairness for thousands of gay and lesbian families across Michigan.
Kirkland & Ellis is making a contribution of $569,542, the amount of attorneys' fees awarded to the firm, to the ACLU in celebration of the victory in this case.
"We applaud the leadership at Kirkland & Ellis for bringing their expertise and resources to addressing the hideous anti-LGBT discrimination that was taking place in our neighboring state," said Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois. "The willingness of the firm to make such a contribution to fight off an effort such as this to harm gay and lesbian couples reflects the very best of the profession."
The ACLU today recognized in particular the two partners, Amy Crawford and Bradley Weidenhammer, who led an outstanding team of lawyers made up of Debra Lefler, Scott Lerner, Russell King, and Jeremy Press in assisting the ACLU to prevail in this case. The lawsuit was filed in June 2013 after a Michigan state law went into effect that barred any government employer ( including Universities and local municipalities ) from providing health care benefits to gay and lesbian domestic partners. Late that same month, a federal judge barred enforcement of the law, relying in part on the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Windsor v. United States. Summary judgment was granted on behalf of the plaintiffs in November of 2014.
"The advancements in equality for gay men and lesbian couples across America has been hastened by the contributions of lawyers from the private bar, like Amy and Brad and the entire team they led," added John Knight, LGBT Project Director for the ACLU of Illinois and a staff attorney with the National ACLU LGBT Project. "They made a tremendous contribution to the success of this litigation — success that is making life easier for same-sex couples in Michigan."
"We're proud of the work we did with the ACLU in this case on behalf of gay and lesbian families in Michigan who were facing serious discrimination," said Bradley Weidenhammer of Kirkland. "By donating our fee award to the ACLU, we hope to compound our success in this case by helping ACLU continue its vigilance against similar discrimination around the country."
Kirkland & Ellis is a 1,600-attorney law firm with 12 offices around the world representing global clients in complex litigation, dispute resolution and arbitration, corporate and tax, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. The Firm is committed to providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel, with the goals of improving lives, bettering communities and deepening our attorneys' professional experience. Kirkland lawyers committed more than 117,000 hours to pro bono work in 2014.