Corey James Prachniak
This summer I am excited to be returning to Whitman-Walker Health (WWH), a community health center, here in Washington, DC. I have built a relationship with WWH, having interned there during the fall, summer, and spring of 2011. WWH is a community health center serving greater Washington’s diverse urban community, including individuals who face barriers to accessing care, and with a special expertise in LGBT and HIV care. WWH offers support services beyond just medical care, including a robust legal services department that handles a wide variety of civil legal issues.
I have been a part of DC’s LGBT community for the past several years, but Whitman-Walker beat me to it by decades. It was originally founded as a clinic for gay men and over the decades has come to be a leader in LGBT and HIV/AIDS care. WWH is the medical home to over 15,000 patients from DC, Maryland, and Virginia in need of culturally competent, high quality health services. My interest in LGBT rights law, as well as in other issues like access to health care and workplace rights issues that Whitman-Walker takes on, is what led me to them over a year ago and what continues to drive my interest and passion today.
My biggest project this past summer was to research how the passage of marriage equality in DC would impact access to public benefits for our clients. Because many government programs are funded in part at the federal level, my work included a great deal of analysis as to the effect of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As DOMA orders all federally-funded programs to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and not treat same-sex couples as “married” under the law, the legal situation for these couples who are married in DC can be quite complicated. I spent several months putting together a guide outlining the legal issues involved and suggesting the best course of action for impacted couples. I was also able to work directly with clients, doctors, government agencies, and, of course, the fabulous Whitman-Walker attorneys on a diverse set of cases and issues.
I’m thrilled to be returning to Whitman-Walker soon to continue working on behalf of DC’s LGBT community, those with HIV/AIDS, and the many other clients who come through our doors seeking help and access to the highest quality services. I’m deeply grateful that the Equal Justice Foundation here at Georgetown is supporting this work by guaranteeing funding for myself and my peers so that we might pursue work in the public interest.