Friday, December 7, 2012

Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry & Sandy Stier.
Photo from the American Foundation for Equal Rights
After weeks of silence on the matter the U.S. Supreme Court has finally announced that it will take up two cases concerning same-sex marriage: Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry. Both cases are very significant, as Windsor is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act which limits federal marriage benefits to heterosexual married couples, while Perry--a challenge to the California state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage--may have nationwide implications for same-sex marriage. Arguments will begin in March of 2013 while a decision is expected in late June.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election: LGBT Victories

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

With several critical victories last night, the 2012 election has been a historic one for the LGBT community. In Maine, Maryland and Washington, voters took to the polls and approved the legalization of same-sex marriage--making this the first time that same-sex marriage has ever been approved by a popular vote. In Minnesota, an amendment to the MN constitution which would have defined marriage as being between a man and a woman was rejected--making Minnesota the first state in which such an amendment was defeated. In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin defeated former Governor Tommy Thompson in the state's senate race, making Baldwin the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. Finally, according to the Victory Fund, at least 118 gay and lesbian candidates managed to win state and local races last night, making this election cycle a decisive victory for the LGBT community and its supporters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Supreme Court Review Conference

On Saturday October 27, Professor Jennifer Levi will speak at the law school about federal marriage discrimination. Her presentation is part of the 17th Annual Supreme Court Review Conference which will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Moot Court Room. The topics to be discussed during the Conference include federal marriage discrimination, the Affordable Care Act, GPS tracking, affirmative action, and Arizona's "show your papers" immigration law. The faculty presenters will be Professors Harpaz, Leavens, Levi, Miller, and Wolf. Professor Levi will be the first speaker and will begin the Conference by talking about the federal marriage discrimination cases that the Supreme Court may consider during the current Term.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WNE Conference: The Life & Legal Thought of Derrick Bell

Tomorrow, September 28th, WNE will host a conference entitled "Building the Arc of Justice: The Life & Legal Thought of Derrick Bell." The conference, sponsored by WNE School of Law's Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies, will be held in the Law School Commons from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Information about the conference and its participants can be found here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Federal Appeals Court: Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

Yesterday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it both interferes with the right of individual states to define marriage and discriminates against same-sex married couples by denying them the same federal benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. In an opinion written by Judge Michael Boudin, a conservative Reagan-appointee, the argument that DOMA was enacted to strengthen heterosexual marriages was soundly rejected:

Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage. [cites omitted]

As noted by The American Prospect, the 1st Circuit Court did not find that classifications based on sexual orientation merited heightened scrutiny, but this was still in line with Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v. Evans in which such classifications were subjected to the so-called "rational basis with teeth" analysis.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Congrats to the new OUTlaw E-Board and OUTlaw Scholarship Recipient

Congratulations to the 2012-2013 OUTlaw E-Board and the OUTlaw Scholarship recipient!!

President: James Ackley, Rising 2L

Vice President: Oliver Mushtare, Rising 2L

Secretary: Chris Burnett, Rising 2L

Treasurer: Samantha Peetros, Rising 2L

Inaugural OUTlaw Scholarship Recipient: Kaley Lentini

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

OUTlaw Meeting Wednesday at Noon!

The last OUTlaw meeting of the semester will be held tomorrow at noon in Room 1. Elections will also be held if anyone is interested in running for office or voting.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scott Lively Sued by Ugandan Gay Rights Group

Scott Lively

In 2009, Pastor Scott Lively was one of three American evangelists who traveled to Kampala and delivered a series of lectures about homosexuality to Ugandan audiences--which included police officers, teachers and politicians. As part of his lecture, Pastor Lively promoted the myth that the Holocaust was actually orchestrated by homosexuals. Shortly thereafter, a Ugandan politician introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 which would, among other things, make homosexuality a capital offense. Although the bill was temporarily shelved (having finally been revived once more last month), persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda reached new heights, as Rolling Stone, an Ugandan newspaper, ran a piece outing homosexuals and calling for them to be lynched. In 2011, David Kato--a prominent Ugandan gay rights activist whose photo was shown in Rolling Stone--was brutally murdered. In response to the increasingly hostile, anti-gay climate, the  gay rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda has filed a lawsuit against Pastor Lively under the alien tort statute. The lawsuit alleges that Lively's actions have led to the "persecution, arrest, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians in Uganda."

The full complaint can be read here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

OUTlaw Meeting This Thursday at Noon!

Image courtesy of Flickr

The next OUTlaw meeting will be held this Thursday, March 1st, at noon in room 1. Hope to see you all there!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Maryland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Image courtesy of LezGetReal

In yet another victory for marriage equality, Maryland is now the 8th state to have made same-sex marriage legal. The same-sex marriage bill was approved by the Maryland Senate on Thursday evening, and has now been signed by MD Gov. Martin O'Malley. It should also be noted that former Vice President Dick Cheney was among a handful of influential Republicans who lobbied Maryland legislators in favor of the bill. In 2009, Cheney, whose daughter is openly lesbian, told the National Press Club, "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish."

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

Image courtesy of Daily Kos

A second federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), a law which denies hundreds of federal marital benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional. According to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, the law "treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation" and the "imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority on a minority cannot provide a justification" for it. Although defenders of the law, appointed by House Republican leaders, claimed that DOMA was justified by "tradition", Judge White noted that the same reasoning was used to defend bans on interracial marriages decades ago. Furthermore, he wrote, excluding same-sex couples from the federal definition of marriage "does nothing to encourage or strengthen opposite-sex marriage." The Republican-dominated House of Representatives announced today that they will appeal the decision.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

OUTlaw presents: Intersectional Identities

Please join OUTlaw at Western New England School of Law as we present Intersectional Identities, a two-day event focused on the legal landscape surrounding the intersection of gender and other identity categories such as race, religion, and sexual orientation.

Monday, February 20:
-10-11am: Exhibition Viewing, Law School Commons
 Bagels & Cream Cheese breakfast

-12-1pm: Panel #1, Law School Commons
 Lunch provided

-4-6pm: Meet & Greet with panelists
 Hors D'oeuvres

Tuesday, February 21:
-12-1pm: Panel #2, Law School Commons

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gov. Christie Vetoes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

NJ Gov. Chris Christie, courtesy of

While marriage equality supporters have had recent victories in California and Washington, recent news from New Jersey is not as optimistic. On Monday the New Jersey state senate approved a bill which would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, and on Thursday this bill was approved by the state assembly. Today, however, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill as promised, saying that "an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide." New Jersey lawmakers have until January 2014 to override the veto.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trans People Suffer Abuses at the Hands of the NYPD

Image courtesy of
A recent article from details the harsh, humiliating way trans persons are treated by the New York Police Department while in custody. In one particularly egregious example, a trans woman named Temmie Breslauer was painfully chained to a fence for 28 hours by police officers who referred to her as a "faggot" and "he-she" (among other epithets). As the article notes, this treatment is not unheard of, and transgender advocates have been working for years in an attempt to end this abuse.

Thanks to OUTlaw President Erika Scibelli for the link.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Washington Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

WA Gov. Christine Gregoire, photo courtesy of Reuters

On Feb. 1st, 2012, the Washington State Senate voted 28-21 in favor of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in their state. On Feb. 8th, the bill made its way to the House and was approved 55-43. And today, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law, officially making Washington the seventh state which supports marriage equality. The law officially takes effect on June 7th.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: Proposition 8 Unconstitutional

Same-sex couple kisses as they celebrate the ruling. Photo from

In a historic ruling, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Proposition 8, a voter-approved statewide ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. As stated in the majority opinion by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." The full text of the court decision may be read here, courtesy of Lambda Legal.

LA Times: Implications of Prop 8 Decision

Maura Dolan of the LA Times explains the "far-reaching implications" of the Prop 8 decision set to come down from the 9th Circuit around 1p.m. EST today.
"Court ruling on Prop 8 has far-reaching implications"

Please stop by the Law School Commons at 1p.m. to watch the decision live.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NCLR's Chris Stoll on Cynthia Nixon's "Choice"

Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, has a great story on Huffington Post about Cynthia Nixon's recent comment that she is gay by choice.  The piece does an excellent job of explaining why this does not affect the legal landscape going forward as well as setting out some basics of Consitutional law with regard to LGBTQ rights. Read Chris' full story here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Panel at WNE: MA's Transgender Rights Law


Strategies for Compliance and Advocacy

Tuesday, February 14 2012 at noon in the Western New England University School of Law Commons. Free and open to the public.

On November 23, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights." The new law effective July 1, 2012, prohibits discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" in employment, education, housing, credit, and lending and makes violence against transgender individuals a hate crime.  The employment and housing provisions of the new law are to be enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

Join us as an expert panel addresses the definition of gender identity, how the law will be enforced, and the steps employers, landlords, lenders, and others should take to ensure their compliance with the law.

Panelists include:
  • Julian Tynes L'97, Chair, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
  • Susan Fentin L'96, Partner, Skoler, Abbott, and Presser, P.C
  • Whitney Holovach L'11, Civil Rights Specialist, Massachusetts Fair Housing Center
  • Jennifer Levi, Professor, Western New England University School of Law and Director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project

SPLC Suit Challenges DOMA

"Tracy Cooper-Harris served for 12 years in the U.S. Army and received multiple commendations.  But because she's in a marriage with a person of the same sex, the government refuses to grant her the same disability benefits as heterosexual veterans.

In a federal lawsuit filed today, the SPLC challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as well as the law that governs the Department of Veterans Affairs policy...

... The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charges that DOMA is unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.  It also challenges the VA's definition of "spouse" as discriminatory."

Read the SPLC's full article here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Plaintiffs in Howe v. Haslam Respond to Ruling"

Last year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed HB 600 into law. This piece of legislation prohibits local governments from enacting any anti-discrimination policies to protect LGBT persons, if those policies are stricter than the ones currently in force at the state level. (Currently, Tennessee has no statewide law barring discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.) On January 25, 2012, Chancellor L. McCoy issued a preliminary order in Howe v. Haslam, the case challenging HB 600, which gives the plaintiffs in the case 30 days to provide additional proof that they have been harmed by the law in order to prevent the case from being dismissed.

Full story at the NCLR's Blog.

Thanks to OUTlaw President Erika Scibelli for the link to the story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ministers Sue Over Hate Crimes Law

Gary Glenn, photo courtesy of

In 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The act effectively expanded the 1969 U.S. hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. Following the passage of the law, three Michigan ministers led by Gary Glenn of the Michigan American Family Association challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing that it violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Noting that the law does not, in fact, proscribe speech but rather "prohibits only violent conduct", U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In 2010, a federal judge agreed with Holder and dismissed the suit, writing that "it is entirely speculative that Plaintiff's conduct would be prosecuted under the Act" and that the plaintiff's claim must be more than just a "generalized grievance." Now, in a new twist, a three judge panel for the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has decided to take up the ministers' claim, with oral arguments set for this Wednesday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Strong Support for Washington's Gay Marriage Bill

Photo courtesy of Queerty.

Following Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire's statement in support of same-sex marriage, a bill to legalize it has now been introduced in the Washington state Senate with 23 sponsors, two of whom are Republicans. Currently, six Democrats have not signed onto the bill, but only two more votes are necessary to have a majority and pass the bill in the Senate. If successful the bill will move to the House, where the Democrats have an even larger majority, before heading to Gov. Gregoire's desk.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Washington Governor Proposes Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has just proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in her state. Concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage, Gregoire said, "It's time, it's the right thing to do, and I will introduce a bill to do it." While Democrats control both the state Senate and House, it should be noted that some conservative Democrats in Washington have voted with Republicans in the past to oppose LGBT rights.