CLEVELAND — After years of research and planning, Ohio now has its first statewide free legal clinic specifically serving folks in the LGBTQ community.
Nonprofit Equality Ohio launched the clinic following grants from the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and the Victims of Crime Act.
Managing law director Maya Simeck said the group looked at the best models and practices from around the country, then spent a year doing an environmental scan to find what issues were most pressing in Ohio.
“We started receiving an influx of phone calls into Equality Ohio of people who were afraid their rights being taken away from them and not having a lot of legal recourse,” Simeck said. “And they wanted assistance.”
Simeck said having staff attorneys who are well-versed in specific laws to serve the LGBTQ community is necessary.
“Everyone has been really excited as well as reaching out to say, ‘You’re an organization that I know is going to be there and not re-vicimize and re-traumatize us when we come to get legal services so the response has been pretty large,” Simeck said.
For Dezireah Williams, it was about more than a name change.
It was about feeling like her true self.
“It made a huge difference because being transgender, society already sees you as one way,” Williams said. “So it was a huge weight lifted.”
Williams was one of the free clinic’s first clients, supported by attorney Emily Meyer.
Meyer said their research found that the most needed services are victim support, family and custody law, benefits compensation, civil rights, and name changes.
They have been inundated with calls for assistance since they opened, Meyer said.
You can find more information on how to contact the legal aid clinic by clicking here.