Mazzoni Center Board Member Lee Carpenter Honored by the National LGBT Bar Association
Mazzoni Center Board Member Lee Carpenter was named one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association last month. The award, in its third year, is intended to recognize attorneys who have “distinguished themselves in their field and demonstrated a profound commitment to LGBT equality.”
An Assistant Professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, Carpenter has also served on Mazzoni’s Legal Advisory Board since its inception in 2009. She and her fellow honorees will be formally recognized at the 2012 Lavender Law® Conference, which takes place August 23-25 in Washington, DC.
Mazzoni Center Legal Director David Rosenblum describes Carpenter as “a powerful and enthusiastic voice for the disenfranchised,” adding that “she personifies the kind of activist and academician that we would want to teach the next wave of law students.”
Speaking of her work as a board member and advisor to Mazzoni Center’s Legal Services department, he says: “She inspires those of us in the LGBT legal community to creatively address new challenges as they present themselves.”
Carpenter’s involvement with Mazzoni Center dates back to her days as a staff attorney at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania (EAP) in the early 2000s. She would frequently refer clients - particularly victims of domestic violence - to the agency for medical or social services, and occasionally provided training to our staff on legal issues. “I also worked with Mazzoni on safe schools issues when I had clients who were facing bullying,” she says.
Carpenter worked her way up to legal director at EAP, then left in 2008 to join the faculty at Temple. The following year, when EAP decided to shift its focus to statewide political advocacy, and the agency’s direct legal services for LGBT individuals were absorbed into a new department at Mazzoni Center, she played a key role in overseeing the successful transition, becoming a founding member of our Legal Advisory Board (LAB).
Her teaching position doesn’t leave much time for direct client work, which is one reason Carpenter enjoys her work with the LAB. “It’s a great opportunity to help Mazzoni think about the kinds of legal issues that matter most to our communities,” she explains.
Asked about the role of legal services within Mazzoni’s overall continuum of care services for the LGBT community in Philadelphia, Carpenter describes it as “absolutely” a fit. Victims of discrimination, or individuals whose rights have been denied due to sexual orientation or gender identity, frequently see an impact on their physical and/or mental well-being, she notes. “Those of us who work in this area have seen firsthand the connection between a person’s civil rights and the state of their health,” she says. “That’s why it’s so important to have culturally competent legal representation in place, and easily accessible to people who may be receiving other services that Mazzoni Center provides.”
A native of Morristown, New Jersey, Carpenter earned her bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University, where she edited a student newspaper and developed a strong interest in First Amendment issues. She attended Temple Law School and won the Beth Cross Award for commitment to underserved populations upon her graduation in 2000. She spent the year after law school clerking for the Honorable Harold B. Wells, III of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, before joining the staff at EAP.
These days her teaching areas at Temple include legal research and writing, public interest law, sexual orientation, and gender identity and the law. Carpenter is passionate about her role as an educator, and also thoughtful about what the job entails.
“I feel as though training lawyers is a tremendous responsibility,” she says. “You are preparing people for a career in which they will have a great deal of power – power to do great, constructive and helpful work, and also power to really hurt other people. So I always ask myself whether, while I’m teaching whatever else I’m teaching, I am also doing a good enough job communicating ethical principles to law students.”
As it happens, the law is a family affair for Carpenter, whose partner, Tiffany Palmer, is a practicing attorney in Philadelphia and was named on the top-40 list last year. The pair, who married in 2010, live in Mt. Airy with their daughter Eleanor, aged 5.
Speaking of the recent honor, Carpenter said: “It’s just really nice to be recognized for the things I’ve done to try to make a difference for our community.”
For more information on the National LGBT Bar Association, click here.