Celebrating Pride Month: A Conversation With Kara Ingelhart


Faculty Bluhm Legal Clinic Diversity and Inclusion
Headshot of Kara Ingelhart
Kara Ingelhart, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the LGBTQI+ Rights Clinic

This year, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic launched the LGBTQI+ Rights Clinic to advance advocacy in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) rights. At a time when harassment, discrimination, and violence targeted against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex people continues to increase across the country, with more than 500 anti-LGBTQI+ bills proposed in the U.S. during the 2024 legislative session, the creation of this new clinic is a natural and necessary addition to the Law School’s clinical offerings and will allow the Law School to be responsive the needs of LGBTQI+ individuals and organizations.

Kara Ingelhart recently joined the Northwestern Pritzker Law faculty as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and the inaugural director of the LGBTQI+ Rights Clinic. As the clinic’s first director, Ingelhart will be responsible for the overall success and sustainability of the clinic as well as the types of matters and projects selected, with the objective of shaping an intersectional and inclusive LGBTQI+ Rights Clinic now and well into the future. To celebrate Pride Month, Kara spoke with the NLaw News team on the importance of celebrating Pride, growing legal challenges to LGBTQI+ rights, and her goals for the new clinic’s first months.

What does Pride mean to you? Why is it still important to celebrate?

Pride means celebrating authenticity, acceptance, and the struggle to get to where we are today. Pride means recognizing that LGBTQIA+ identities and communities add value for their difference, uniqueness, and diversity. Pride means being grateful for the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations and the joy embracing one’s true self and others brings. Pride also means continuing our annual Pride Month celebrations and being openly loving and expressive all year to build more understanding and compassion as our community grows, despite negative political pressures that aim to erode progression of legal rights. 

How would you describe the current legal landscape for LGBTQI+ rights?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people continue to face stigma and experience discrimination at higher rates than non-LGBTQI+ people. And the last decade, and particularly the last several years, have seen an escalation of harassment, discrimination, and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people nationwide across the country. Those negative social pressures not only create immediate harm but lead to long-term disparities in health and economic outcomes. Data show that members of the LGBTQI+ community are more likely to be low-income,[1] to experience worse health and health care outcomes,[2] and to avoid seeking law enforcement support in instances of violence and harassment for fear of facing more discrimination.[3] Meanwhile, threats of violence to the community[4] and anti-LGBTQI+ hate crimes across the country,[5] even within school environments[6] are increasing. Concurrent with the uptick in negative treatment toward the LGBTQI+ community is the unprecedented number of bills introduced at the state level nationwide, aimed specifically at rolling back LGBTQI+ rights, with an intense focus on rolling back rights for transgender people. 

What are some goals you’re hoping to accomplish in your first months as director? 

I am thrilled to be serving the Law School, students, and community as Clinical Professor of Law and Director, LGBTQI+ Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Bluhm Legal Clinic precisely because it’s an incredible opportunity to lead critical work that will enhance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (“DEIB”) within a law school environment, the profession, and for the LGBTQI+ community. And I believe initiating the incredible project will begin that important work and will lay a foundation for growth. As a legal advocate, centering DEIB on many levels including at the community level, for my individual clients, and for my team members will be a driving force of the clinic’s vision. I hope to engage with students who are looking for opportunities to grow communication skills for serving historically marginalized communities, to develop an understanding of the strategies that have shaped our nation’s LGBTQI+ rights movement history, and to immerse themselves in the interdisciplinary nature of the law.

Why are you excited to continue this work at Northwestern Pritzker Law? 

Now is the right time to present Northwestern Pritzker Law students the opportunity to develop multi-dimensional lawyering skills in a growing specialization like LGBTQI+ rights, which requires skills that can be broadly applied in all kinds of legal practice. With more people identifying as a member of the community than ever before and the intense public attention on our rights, there are so many opportunities to engage in legal advocacy on behalf of LGBTQI+ community members. I am thrilled for the opportunity to provide the next generation of legal professional leaders the experience of navigating the intersectional legal challenges facing LGBTQI+ people as a means of educating about professional duties, values-based lawyering, and balancing that with personal morals, all while working on cutting-edge issues with all the satisfaction that brings to an active learner like a clinical student.

Within that state legislative landscape, Illinois is well-positioned to serve as “ground zero” for upholding LGBTQI+ rights and countering state actions that promote anti-LGBTQI+ agendas, given its geographic location and strong progressive leadership. Midwestern states account for more than one-fifth of bills identified as anti-LGBTQ this term[7] as well as many of the nation’s currently enacted laws rolling back rights and freedoms from recent legislative terms, including bans on gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.[8] Meanwhile, Illinois has myriad anti-discrimination laws protecting from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity[9] and also has a recently enacted a shield law[10] protecting access to gender-affirming care, as well as a new name change law[11] that for the first time allows people with certain criminal convictions to change their names, which is significant given the disproportionate criminalization of LGBTQI+ people.[12]Thus, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is an ideal place to lead these efforts locally, regionally, and nationally via its world-class Bluhm Legal Clinic, in collaboration with on-the-ground stakeholders and advocates, and I am excited to help contribute to that work.

1 Biana D. M. Wilson, et al., LGBT Poverty in the US: Trends at the Onset of COVID-19, at 1 (2023), https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LGBT-Poverty-COVID-Feb-2023.pdf; Caroline Medina & Lindsay Mahowalk, Key Issues Facing People with Intersex Traits, Center for American Progess (Oct. 26, 2021), https://www.americanprogress.org/article/key-issues-facing-people-intersex-traits/.

2 Lindsey Dawson, et al., LGBT+ People’s Health Status and Access to Care, KFF (June 30, 2023), https://www.kff.org/report-section/lgbt-peoples-health-status-and-access-to-care-issue-brief/; Medina, supra note 1.

3 Somjen Frazer, Richard Saenz, Andrew Aleman & Laura Laderman, Protected and Served?, 27-33 (2023), http://protectedandserved.org/2022-report-full-report.

4 Josh Margolin & Teddy Grant, Threats against the LGBTQIA+ community intensifying: Department of Homeland Security, ABC News (May 15, 2023, 7:32 PM), https://abcnews.go.com/US/threats-lgbtqia-community-intensifying-department-homeland-security/story?id=99338137.

5 Delphine Luneau, FBI’s Annual Crime Report—Amid State of Emergency, Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes Hit Staggering Record Highs, HRC (October 16, 2023), https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/fbis-annual-crime-report-amid-state-of-emergency-anti-lgbtq-hate-crimes-hit-staggering-record-highs).

6 Laura Meckler, et al., In states with laws targeting LGBTQ issues, school hate crimes quadrupled, Washington Post (March 13, 2024, 10:32 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2024/03/12/school-lgbtq-hate-crimes-incidents/.

7 Mapping Attacks on LGBTQ Rights in U.S. State Legislatures in 2024, ACLU, https://www.aclu.org/legislative-attacks-on-lgbtq-rights-2024 (last visited April 6, 2024).

8 Snapshot: LGBTQ Equality by State, Movement Advancement Project, https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps (last visited April 6, 2024).

9 Rights of LGBTQ+ Persons, Illinois Legal Aid Online, https://www.illinoislegalaid.org/legal-information/rights-lgbtq-persons (last visited April 6, 2024).

10 Bans on Best Practice Medial Care for Transgender Youth, Movement Advancement Project, https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/healthcare/youth_medical_care_bans (last visited April 6, 2024).

11 New Law Amending Name Change Requirements Effective January 1, 2024, Illionois Courts, https://www.illinoiscourts.gov/News/1306/New-law-amending-name-change-requirements-effective-January-1-2024/news-detail/#:~:text=Effective%20January%201%2C%202024%2C%20the,due%20to%20marriage%2C%20religious%20beliefs%2C (last visited April 6, 2024).

12 Alexis Jones, Visualizing the unequal treatment of LGBTQ people in the criminal justice system, Prison Policy Initiative (March 2, 2021), https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2021/03/02/lgbtq/.