By Len Lear
Despite the efforts of Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and their extreme right-wing allies, gay rights have made remarkable progress in recent years, thanks to courageous activists like Tiffany Palmer, 45, of Mt. Airy.
Tiffany is the Director of the Family Law Institute of the National LGBT Bar Association, a joint venture of the LGBT Bar and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. This collaboration allows experienced LGBT family law practitioners to share collective wisdom and discuss cutting-edge legal strategies for representing members of the LGBT community.
Tiffany has been involved in several Pennsylvania LGBT family law cases, including child support and custody laws for same-sex couples, second-parent adoption and same-sex marriage. “The most high profile case I litigated most recently,” she told us last week, “was the Baby S case in 2015 that held for the first time that gestational surrogacy contracts are legally enforceable in Pennsylvania. While the case itself did not involve LBGT clients, it has had a huge impact on my LGBT-assisted reproduction law practice as I have many same-sex male clients who use surrogacy to form their families.”
A 1998 graduate of Rutgers University Law School, Tiffany started the firm of Jerner & Palmer in 2003 in Germantown. She partnered with a friend, Benjamin Jerner, who was doing similar and complementary work. “I was doing family law, and he does estate planning and probate,” Tiffany said. “We decided to form a firm that focused on representing LGBT clients in these areas. I then left my position as the Legal Director of Equality Pennsylvania and started Jerner & Palmer, P.C.”
Tiffany, who grew up in Arizona and Utah, decided on a law career in her last year at Northern Arizona University, where she was editor of the school newspaper. “I became very interested in the free speech rights of student journalists and began learning about Constitutional law. I knew I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer in some capacity … There are many other family law attorneys that I met through my participation in the National Center for Lesbian Rights National Family Law Advisory Council who are my role models and heroes.”
Tiffany has also been an adjunct professor at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University, teaching Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and the Law. In 2014, Tiffany received Rutgers Law School’s Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award for her case work and pro bono service on behalf of advancing the rights of LGBT families in Pennsylvania.
And in 2011, Tiffany was named one of the nation’s “Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40” by the National LGBT Bar Association, an affiliate of the American Bar Association. From 2008 to 2011, Tiffany was named a “Rising Star” by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, recognizing top attorneys in the Commonwealth under the age of 40.
How does Tiffany feel she can combat the decisions of the Trump Administration, which are clearly hostile to LGBT rights? “We can best combat the Trump administration polices by educating clients about the need to pro-actively protect the legal rights of LGBT families. So many LGBT couples with children together using assisted reproduction don’t understand the importance of securing the rights of the parent not-genetically related through an adoption process. This is the single most important thing that LGBT families can do to protect them from a future challenge to their parental rights.”
When not lawyering, Tiffany’s favorite thing is to be outdoors with her family — her spouse Lee, daughter Ellie, 10, and dog Charlie. “We love hiking, camping, skiing and playing Legos. We love to travel and visit state and national parks. I also love volunteer work. I am currently a co-Girl Scout Leader for a troop in Chestnut Hill, and I love helping the girls learn new things … (Also) I love Mt. Airy for its proximity to nature (we love the Wissahickon) and for my fellow neighbors and residents. It is full of interesting people. I love the diversity of my neighborhood.”
Tiffany’s daughter is a student at Jenks, but Palmer joined the Friends of Jenks organization even before Ellie attended Jenks. This year, Tiffany was elected the Fundraising Chair.
What was the best advice Tiffany ever received? “Never give up and stay positive. Having a positive and hopeful outlook is so important, especially these days in this political climate!”
What was the hardest thing Tiffany ever did? “I went to Alaska when I was 19 to have an adventure and work for the summer in a salmon processing plant. I answered an ad in the back of the college newspaper, and my friends were supposed to go, too. They decided not to go, so I went alone. I found myself in harsh assembly line conditions, gutting fish as many as 15 hours each day. I knew if I could get through that job and finish at the end, anything else I did in life would seem doable.”
More information at 215-843-6000 or www.jplaw.com/