Stephen Kulp, JD ’13, was a senior in high school when he chose to attend Kline Law. Kulp, who participated in the Drexel-Kline Law 3+3 program, says his academic career was non-stop from the time he was in preschool up to taking the bar. And it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
In January 2021, Kulp became the first Asian American to be elected as Chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association. More recently, he was awarded the 2021 Friendship and Ally Award from the International Association of LGBTQ+ Judges and was elected as a Co-Chair of the Affiliate Bar Caucus of The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association, which represents all of the LGBTQ+ affiliate bar associations across the country. He also was featured in Drexel University’s 40 under 40.
However, his transition from classroom to courtroom wasn’t without its challenges. “When I entered the workforce, I wanted to start doing what I know I can do well. What I wasn’t expecting was how difficult it was to navigate being an openly gay attorney,” said Kulp, who often found himself in professional environments where he was the only person of color and the only out LGBTQ+ person.
This led Kulp to the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, a community that was formed in 1986 when 25 attorneys came together to advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the Greater Philadelphia area.
“An amazing thing about [the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar] is our diversity. The attorneys, law students, professors, judges, and politicians that comprise our membership are fierce advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and often bring a voice to those at the intersection of sexuality and race, age, and gender,” said Kulp of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association.
In his role as Chair, Kulp has made several innovations to ensure the community continues to be inclusive, such as ensuring that most events are free to members, and advocating for the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in April 2021, the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association co-sponsored a district attorney town hall, during which Kulp brought up the issue of the so-called “gay and trans ‘panic’ defense.” This defense strategy suggests that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is what caused a defendant’s violent reaction. (Read more about the issue here.)
While Kulp may not have known it when he first became involved in the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, he was joining many Kline Law students, alumni and faculty who have been involved in the community.
“The Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association is a terrific organization that serves the needs of local LGBTQ lawyers and legal professionals,” said Daniel Anders, adjunct professor at Kline Law and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge, who has been involved in the organization since 1998. “It provides a space to network, participate in legal education on LGBTQ issues and engage in advocacy work. I highly recommend both students and alumni to attend a few of our events and consider joining.”
In addition to Professor Anders’ involvement in the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, several Kline Law alumni are in leadership roles there, as well. Krystal Kane, JD ’13, is the co-chair on the social justice and volunteerism committee, and Alex Perry, JD ’20, and Olivia Hester, JD ’20, are the co-chairs for the social and networking committee.
Hester, who was active in OutLaw as a student, met Kulp during a virtual holiday party hosted by the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association. “After that, Stephen and I met and discussed how I could get more involved! I was very excited to take on such a front-facing role in the organization and start planning some events,” said Hester.
Hester’s main goal as co-chair of the social and networking committee is to continue the work the organization has done to branch out into the Philadelphia legal community. “I want to plan events where LGBTQ+ lawyers, along with the greater legal community, can connect and support each other,” she added.
Similarly, Kane plans to create a variety of pro bono and charitable community activities for the social justice and volunteerism committee. “My current initiative is a name-change clinic, and we have some other cool projects in the works, including working with LGBTQ+ senior citizens,” said Kane, a pro bono attorney at Blank Rome.
Kane encourages students and alumni alike to “reach out and consider joining! [the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association] is a wonderful group of LGBTQ+ attorneys and allies working together. Please reach out to Stephen or to me, and I’m happy to connect you!”
Kulp says that he’s seen how the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association builds briges between its members and the general LGBTQ+ community. He also notes that the Association provides an important network and community for its student members. “Our organization is tremendously proud of our student members, many of whom now hold leadership positions within our organization. The student members represent future leadership for the organization, but more importantly, they represent future advocates for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Kulp.