Event Overview

Thursday, January 18, 2024

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM —LGBTQ+ Vanguard Award Ceremony and Reception –
Offsite at Holland & Knight LLP (31 W 52nd St, Floor 12)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

1:00 PM – 4:00 PM — Virtual CLE Program

Combatting the Tide of Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws and Regulations

The LGBTQ+ community is currently facing a legal assault of anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country at the state and federal level. Our Section’s Virtual CLE programs will explore how these anti-LGBTQ+ laws and regulations adversely impact and disenfranchise our community. Topics and issues covered at the Annual Meeting may include LGBTQ+ immigration and asylum claims, limited access to medical care and hormone therapy for trans people, book bans containing LGBTQ+ content, and the impacts of SCOTUS decisions such as 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis and Dobbs v. Jackson. Our diverse panelists will discuss the broader impact of these laws, challenges in the face of an anti-LGBTQ+ political movement and offer solutions and actions to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Key Highlights and Objectives

  • Attendees will learn how the LGBTQ+ community is adversely impacted by laws and regulations at the state and federal level.
  • Attendees will learn how they can get involved to counteract anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Section Chair
Samuel W. Buchbauer, Esq.| Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld, LLP | New York, NY

Program Chair
Nicholas Loza, Esq. | DOPF P.C. | New York, NY

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

2.0 MCLE Credits
2.0 Credits in Areas of Professional Practice

This program is transitional and is suitable for all attorneys
including those newly admitted.

1:00 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.

Welcome and Introduction

Samuel W. Buchbauer, Esq. | Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld, LLP New York, NY

1:10 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.

Rainbow Asylum - U.S. Policy and Procedures for Asylum Based Upon LGBTQI+ Persecution

Sweeping new laws imposing heavy criminal penalties on LGBTQI+ people in Russia, Uganda and other areas including East Africa, parts of South America and Asia have given new criticality and urgency to U.S. asylum applications. This panel will examine pre-existing qualifications for asylum based upon LGBTQI+ legal and extralegal persecution, recent statistics and trends, and the challenges posed by recent U.S. policy and overseas legislative developments. A specific look at opportunities for pro bono and public advocacy by U.S. practitioners.


Daven Ghandi, Esq. | Founder and Owner Kaza Law, PLLC New York, NY

Warren Seay, Jr. Esq. | Partner ArentFox Schiff LLP Washington, DC

1.0 Credit in Areas of Professional Practice

2:10 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.


2:20 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.

Behind Bars: Unveiling Injustice in the LGBTQI+ Criminal Justice System

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. As of 2017, we spend over $182 billion each year to imprison nearly 1% of our adult population - including a disproportionate percentage of the LGBTQI+ population. Throughout the legal system, LGBTQI+ individuals and people living with aids encounter callous prison conditions and discriminatory practices that place them at a higher risk of harm, violence and abuse and challenge their constitutional protections such as their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, rights to privacy, right to be safe and right to necessary health care. This panel will explore the unique challenges and legislation that LGBTQI+ people face within the criminal justice system and recent efforts to eradicate them. Panelists will discuss the statistics and unequal treatment of LGBTQI+ people in the criminal justice system, movements contending mass incarceration, LGBTQI+ advocacy to protect our community within correction facilities and recent efforts to establish legal protections for vulnerable LGBTQI+ individuals within the United States prison and jail system such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and pre-trial diversion programs.


Richard Saenz, Esq. | Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice & Police Misconduct Strategist Lambda Legal New York, NY

Mik Kinkead, Esq. | Staff Attorney, LGBTQ+ Law and Policy Unit The Legal Aid Society New York, NY

Deborah Lolai, Esq. | Director, LGBTQ Defense Project The Bronx Defenders Bronx, NY

Allie Bohm, Esq. | Senior Policy Counsel New York Civil Liberties Union New York, NY

1.0 Credit in Areas of Professional Practice

3:20 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Concluding Remarks

Samuel W. Buchbauer, Esq. | Capell Barnett Matalon & Schoenfeld, LLP New York, NY

3:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

LGBTQ Law Section Business Meeting
Wesley R. Powell, Esq.

2024 LGBTQ+ Vanguard Award Winner

Wesley R. Powell, Esq.

Partner, Litigation, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP

A partner in the Litigation Department of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, Wes Powell serves as Co-Chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Practice, where he leads pro bono efforts on a broad range of groundbreaking civil rights matters that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, low-income New Yorkers, asylum seekers and others. Throughout his 30+ year legal career, Wes has maintained a longstanding commitment to social justice, and played a lead role in landmark cases involving LGBTQ+ rights. He is a member of Willkie’s DEI Committee and partner liaison to the LGBTQ+ affinity group. He is also Co-Chair of the firm’s Antitrust Practice Group.

As part of his ongoing work for LGBTQ+ rights and healthcare equality, Wes successfully led a Willkie team, along with TLDEF, in Lange v. Houston County, Georgia, seeking healthcare coverage for transition-related, medically-necessary surgery and treatments for Sgt. Anna Lange, a transgender Sheriff’s Deputy. The court’s landmark ruling held that defendants had violated Title VII by maintaining a health plan excluding coverage for gender-affirming care. Wes also co-led a federal class action, Toomey v. Arizona, with the ACLU, which challenged a coverage exclusion for transition-related medical care imposed on transgender employees in Arizona’s state university system and resulted in a class settlement eliminating the challenged exclusion. These wins follow his groundbreaking work in the landmark case Cruz v. Zucker (SDNY), with the Legal Aid Society of New York and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which resulted in a NYS Medicaid coverage requirement of medically necessary care for gender dysphoria.

In immigration matters, Wes has advocated for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries, through individual representations of LGBTQ+ individuals seeking immigration relief.

Outside of his legal practice, Wes serves on the board of the NYC AIDS Memorial, helping to develop the physical memorial into a significant cultural and educational institution in the West Village. He previously served for nine years on the board (including three years as Chair) of the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), a leading provider of services to at-risk LGBTQ+ youth and home of Harvey Milk High School, a New York City public high school for at-risk students, many of whom are LGBTQ+. He is a past chair of the Partners Group of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York; as chair, Wes led the Partner Group’s advocacy for more LGBT+ members of the state and federal judiciary.

Wes has received numerous awards in recognition of his pro bono advocacy. In 2023, he received NYSBA’s Outstanding Pro Bono Volunteer Award, and Legal Aid Society’s Public Interest Law Leadership Award. He was also a driving force behind Willkie’s 2023 Pro Bono Innovator award by Bloomberg Law. Wes was named Chambers’ LGBTQ+ Equality Lawyer of the Year in 2019, and a Crain’s New York Business Notable LGBTQ Leader in 2022.

Wes is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Duke University School of Law. Wes, his husband Michael Rourke, and his children Beckett (15) and Olivia (9) live in NYC.