The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) is a New York-based left-of-center advocacy group focused on trans and non-binary persons’ interests. The TLDEF primarily assists individuals in court cases by connecting them with pro bono lawyers at established law firms.
In March 2023, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund endorsed the “Trans Bill of Rights,” a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) that codifies a set of anti-discriminatory regulations designed to secure transgender and non-binary individuals’ interests in health care, education, law enforcement, and other laws. 1
In July 2020, the TLDEF, along with the National Women’s Law Center, Transgender Law Center, the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School, and law firm Hogan Lovells sued the Trump administration for proposing an Affordable Care Act rule that eliminated anti-discrimination regulations regarding race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender orientation, and so on. 2
Let Us Play
TLDEF is part of the Let Us Play campaign organized by the National Center for Transgender Equality and also joined by Athlete Ally, the Gender Cool Project, InterAct, GLSEN, the National Education Association, and TransAthlete. The campaign advocates for integrating trans and intersex individuals into school sports leagues according to their chosen genders rather than their natural sex. 3
Name Change Project
The TLDEF’s Name Change Project provides pro bono legal services to transgender and non-binary individuals to secure legal name changes. Funding for the Name Change Project is partially provided by New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development program. 4
The TLDEF’s Impact litigation program files lawsuits and amicus briefs on behalf of transgender and non-binary individuals across the United States. 5 For example, in 2014, the TLDEF filed a suit against South Carolina’s Department of Motorized Vehicles (DMV) on behalf of a 16-year-old gender non-conforming person after the DMV rejected a driver’s license photo because it determined that his appearance was too altered by make-up to be valid. The DMV ordered the individual to remove make-up for the photo, which the individual alleged to be a violation of his gender rights. 6
Trans Health Project
The TLDEF’s Trans Health Project advocates for health care access for trans and non-binary individuals through legal challenges to existing health care laws. The Project also assists individuals in legal disputes for coverage under government programs like Medicaid or private health insurers. 7
In October 2021, seven employees of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced that they were unionizing as the Union of Legal Workers for Trans Liberation with assistance from the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys. The effort was sparked after two non-white employees were denied coverage for their gender-reassignment surgeries under the TLDEF’s health care plan. The workers are demanding better health care, cost-of-living raises, sick leave, and paid vacation. TLDEF leadership responded favorably to the unionization. 8
Andy Marra is the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Marra, a male-to-female transgender, formerly led the external communications team at the Arcus Foundation for five years, managed public relations at GLSEN, was the co-director at Nodutdol for Korean Community Development (a left-wing Korean-American group), and worked as a senior media strategist at GLAAD. Marra is the board chair of the Freedom for All Americans Education Fund and previously sat on the boards of Chinese for Affirmative Action, the Funding Exchange, Human Rights Campaign, Just Detention International, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. 9 In 2018, Marra unsuccessfully ran for New York State Senate. 10
In 2016, the TLDEF received $20,000 from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. 12
- “SEN. MARKEY AND REP. JAYAPAL INTRODUCE THE TRANS BILL OF RIGHTS AHEAD OF INTERNATIONAL TRANSGENDER DAY OF VISIBILITY.” Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. March 30, 2023. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/sen-markey-and-rep-jayapal-introduce-the-trans-bill-of-rights-ahead-of-international-transgender-day-of-visibility.
- “BREAKING: We’re Suing the Administration.” Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://transgenderlegal.org/stay-informed/breaking-were-suing-administration/.
- “NCAA Swimmer Lia Thomas Speaks Out for Trans Inclusion in Title IX.” National Center for Transgender Equality. May 8, 2023. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://transequality.org/press/releases/ncaa-swimmer-lia-thomas-speaks-out-for-trans-inclusion-in-title-ix.
- “Name Change Project.” Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.transgenderlegal.org/our-work/name-change-project/.
- “Impact Litigation.” Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.transgenderlegal.org/our-work/impact-litigation-program/.
- McLeod, Harriet. “S. Carolina boy sues over makeup removal for driver’s license photo.” Septemeber 2, 2014. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-transgender-south-carolina-idUSL1N0R31PH20140902.
- “Trans Health Project.” Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.transgenderlegal.org/our-work/trans-health-project/.
- Bellamy-Walker, Tat. “TLDEF Employees Mount Unionization Effort.” Gay News. October 22, 2021. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://gaycitynews.com/employees-trans-legal-defense-and-education-fund-union/.
- “Executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.” Funders for LGBTQ Issues. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://lgbtfunders.org/sp-committee-member/andy-marra/.
- Beresford, Meka. “Activist Andrea Marra running to be first trans elected official in New York.” The Pink News. February 7, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.thepinknews.com/2018/02/07/activist-andrea-marra-running-to-be-first-trans-elected-official-in-new-york/.
- “Our Grantees.” Stonewall Community Foundation. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://www.stonewallfoundation.org/grantees.
- “The HOPE Fund Impact.” Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Accessed June 21, 2023. https://cfsem.org/special-opportunities/the-hope-fund/the-hope-fund-impact/.