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Transgender community gets legal support from Viacom, Shearman & Sterling

The two companies have come together in support of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s efforts.

Navigating legal processes to change one’s name is a different kind of challenge for people who are transgender than it is for others. Social stigmas, taboos, and judgments abound in general towards transgender folk. They often face more challenging roadblocks if they so choose to change names along with genders.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) is dedicated to supporting the transgender community in the way of acting specifically on behalf of transgender people to confirm their legal identities. A project of TLDEF’s — the “Name Change Project” — is focused on helping transgender people obtain legal recognition for their new names through pro-bono means, with only the cost of the name change relegated to the client.

The project covers five cities in the U.S. and has recently gotten some backing from big-name law firms and media companies. Shearman & Sterling — a law firm in the global community — has signed its name to the TLDEF’s Name Change Project. And the firm has also recently announced its partnering with Viacom — the media conglomerate known for its work in civic projects — to further mobilize the Name Change Project’s goals.

Viacom Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary Michael Fricklas said in a statement: “Viacom is deeply committed to mobilizing on social justice efforts, in particular diversity and inclusion for our employees and audiences worldwide. We are proud to leverage our dedication to pro bono legal service to support TLDEF’s efforts to achieve greater equality and acceptance for others through its ‘Name Change Project.’”

Viacom will devote its legal team to the project, and along with Shearman & Sterling will add pro bono legal services to support the TLDEF’s mission.

The companies’ announcement also made note of the tangible work TLDEF has accomplished in its assistance of 1,300 people with name changes in New York City alone. Its expansion is coming slowly but surely to other parts of New York as well as Pennsylvania. Both Shearman & Sterling and Viacom have been given excellent scores on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2014 Corporate Equality Index.


For more on transgender rights in law, check out these InsideCounsel articles:

Compliance: A look at the EEOC’s pursuit of “edge of the envelope” cases

Facts & Figures: More companies extend equal benefits to transgender employees

Transgender employees protected under Title VII

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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