Co-op Member Beata Leja and the Chicago Public Libraries Provide Innovative LGBT Programming
The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of federal recognition of state laws regarding same-sex marriage in June of 2013 had far-reaching implications that went far beyond a rejection of sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In fact, many people impacted by the ruling—including immigrants—did not immediately realize the implications of the decision on their legal standing.
|Co-op member Beata Leja teamed with AILA
and the Chicago Public Libraries to educate the LGBT
immigrant community on the legal implications
following the fall of DOMA.
That’s where the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and CIW Co-op Member and immigration attorney Beata Leja come in. In October, they launched the first of two Chicago Public Library (CPL) events aimed at educating LGBT immigrants of the rights they are now afforded under the ruling.
“[AILA] had wanted to do public outreach about their newly found immigration benefits that they hadn’t had access to previously,” Leja said of her motivation to design the programs.
The informational sessions, held at the Rogers Park Library in October and the Edgwater Branch in November, grew out of an e-mail conversation Leja had with fellow Co-op member and Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. With the library’s broader commitment to community-oriented programming, as well as its establishment of an LGBT committee, the two educational programs fit well into the library’s outreach efforts. Leja and her co-presenters provided information on how immigrants in same-sex marriages can apply for green cards, as well as changes to legal rights regarding deportation, asylum and domestic abuse, among others.
“Once [the government] released information on same-sex couples…we [at the library] knew that this was a topic that ought to be addressed somehow because as the Chicago PublicLibrary we try to serve all populations across the city,” Director of Adult Services at CPL Craig Davis, who coordinated with AILA to produce the events, said.
Leja and AILA are currently working with the library system to design programs focused on the legal changes that will take effect state-wide June 1 with Illinois’s recognition of same-sex marriages.