Attorney Christopher Clark ’87 has been active on two fronts of the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in his home state of Illinois. He helped to draft and review legislation that has passed the state Senate and now awaits a vote in the state House. He also leads the legal team for a group of 16 same-sex couples suing for the freedom to marry in the Cook County courts.
Clark is a senior staff attorney in the Midwest regional office of Lambda Legal, which pursues civil rights cases and public policy on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. He says that each state responds differently to same-sex marriage efforts. In some cases, litigation can stall legislation; in others, it seems to encourage lawmakers to take action. “I think here it’s proven to be complementary,” Clark says.
For Clark, working on behalf of the LGBT population was part of the reason he started law school in the early 1990s, after working in advertising for five years. “I was really motivated by a much better understanding of what it was like to be openly gay in society at that point,” he says. He interned at Lambda Legal and kept in contact with the organization while working in private practice at Sachnoff & Weaver in Chicago, where he became a partner. He left to join Lambda Legal full time in 2007, seeing the move as an opportunity to fulfill the “in the nation’s service” ideal he had encountered as an undergraduate in the Woodrow Wilson School.
Clark’s region stretches from Ohio to the Dakotas, and while marriage equality often captures the headlines, he notes that Lambda Legal has broader goals, pursuing “impact litigation” that will change the world not only for the client but for others in the LGBT community.
To that end, Clark has worked on discrimination cases — including one in which a transgender student was prevented from wearing a dress to her prom — and other suits involving freedom of expression. In 2012, Clark successfully worked on behalf of a gay student in rural Ohio who was barred from wearing a “Jesus is not a homophobe” T-shirt to his high school. “It’s a remarkable experience to go through that process with a 17-year-old as your client,” he says. “It really inspired me.”
Like many of our Tiger of the Week honorees, Christopher Clark ’87 was nominated by a PAW reader. Do you have an idea for a future Tiger of the Week profile? Let us know.