LGBTQ Law Center staff attorney Sarah Demarest, left, and lead attorney Kelly Durden will lead a "Know Your Rights" workshop in Charlotte on Thursday.
Left to right, Sarah Demarest and Kelly Durden opened a non-profit law center in Charlotte.
Left to right, Sarah Demarest and Kelly Durden opened a non-profit law center in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new non-profit law center is opening its doors in the Queen City and its founders are hoping to fulfill unmet needs of low-income LGBT people.

“Legal services are inaccessible for a lot of people in the community, particularly because of the cost,” said Sarah Demarest, a co-founder of the new Freedom Center for Social Justice LGBTQ Law Center. “Additionally, there are a lot of attorneys who are uncertain how to deal with LGBT clients, particularly transgender clients.”

Demarest, who graduated this year from Charlotte School of Law, is joined at the new center by attorney Kelly Durden. The center will be housed under the Freedom Center for Social Justice, founded and headed by Bishop Tonyia Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte.

Durden, who once worked for another non-profit legal services group, said many LGBT people often face difficulties accessing services, especially for domestic violence issues and end-of-life decisions.

“Not only is there a real need, but we also see a frustration with the system, where people in the LGBT community felt there were no options for them.”

Durden also said other non-profit agencies often didn’t have the resources or knowledge to best assist LGBT people. “There is a blind spot for the needs of the LGBT community when it comes to advance directives and simple wills,” she said.

Demarest said a statewide survey of 300 people they took last year showed a substantial need for a center working specifically on LGBT-related legal issues. Eighty percent of respondents, she said, would prefer to consult attorneys with LGBT-specific experience.

The new center hosts a launch party on Aug. 16 at the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. For more information, visit To schedule an appointment, email or call 980-298-6588. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.