Equality Ohio is a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure lived and legal equality for LGBTQ+ Ohioans. Through advocacy, community outreach, and civil legal services, Equality Ohio works to create an Ohio where LGBTQ+ people are thriving.
The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation supports Equality Ohio through funding for their civil legal services program, ensuring LGBTQ+ Ohioans with limited means access to legal help.
“We make sure that LGBTQ+ Ohioans and their allies understand how local, state, and federal laws impact lived experiences,” said Equality Ohio’s Legal Director, Maya Simek. “When there are circumstances that hinder the ability to thrive, we remove legal barriers, allowing people to stabilize and move forward.”
Equality Ohio’s legal clinic first opened its doors in 2019 after the nonprofit embarked on a multi-year project to assess the legal climate for LGBTQ+ Ohioans and design a legal services program that would most effectively meet the needs of the community. Today, the clinic has a professional staff and fellowship presence in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati and hosts a growing Attorney Referral Network program. The clinic offers legal services in common areas of law, such as consumer and family, and novelty areas of law, like addressing the legal issues around name and gender marker changes.
Equality Ohio’s work around name and gender marker changes is particularly cutting-edge. It provides a much-needed service for LGBTQ+ Ohioans who benefit from access to lawyers attuned to their specific needs.
In addition to providing legal services to the community, Equality Ohio’s legal team conducts virtual continuing education and public training courses, presents on cultural humility, hosts events related to topical areas of law, and participates in community events, working tirelessly to serve LGBTQ+ Ohioans holistically.
“We are a community lawyering model, meaning we look at how we can help people achieve restorative justice by meeting clients and allies where they are at,” Simek said. “We work diligently to find and place LGBTQ+ Ohioans with realistic resources that can help meet their needs as a whole person.”
The Foundation funds specialty legal aids like Equality Ohio to address the unique civil legal needs of specific populations. Learn more about specialty legal aids.