Press Release

Cooley Receives Leadership Award for LGBTQ+ Pro Bono Services

November 18, 2022

New York – November 18, 2022 – Cooley has been recognized with a Law Firm Leadership Award by the LGBT Bar Association of New York (LeGaL) at its Thanksgiving & Volunteer Awards night. Cooley received the recognition based on its representation of a same-sex couple, Tiffany Allen and Angel Lane, in a multiyear legal battle against a New York designer who refused to sell them a wedding garment based on their sexual orientation. The case was led by Cooley lawyers Kathleen Hartnett, Ian Shapiro, Kaitland Kennelly and Katelyn Kang, and former Cooley associate Valeria M. Pelet del Toro, who is now a law clerk in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Allen and Lane became engaged in 2018 and began a yearlong search for wedding attire. Lane found a garment being sold online by a New York City designer. In June 2019, Allen emailed the designer that she would like to purchase the garment. However, the designer refused to sell to Allen, stating that she “wouldn’t be able to make a piece for a same-sex wedding.”

Allen filed suit with the New York State Division of Human Rights, citing the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) prohibition on discrimination based on sexual orientation. Allen then reached out to LeGaL for assistance, and Cooley partnered with LeGaL to provide representation.

In September 2022, a New York state administrative law judge concluded that the designer unlawfully discriminated against Allen based on her sexual orientation when the designer refused to provide her with a garment for her same-sex wedding. The judge rejected the designer’s First Amendment claim, determining that the NYSHRL was not an unreasonable interference with the designer’s religious freedom, and that the designer’s refusal to sell an already designed garment for a same-sex wedding was not a First Amendment-protected “expressive statement.”

The administrative law judge has recommended that Allen be awarded $5,000 in compensation for emotional distress, and that the designer pay $20,000 in civil fines and penalties.

About Cooley LLP

Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity, and provides nonprofit organizations with the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.

Cooley has 1,500 lawyers across 18 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe, and a total workforce of 3,300.

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