Georgetown and gay rights: A healing moment

by on April 7, 2013  •  In Constitutional law, Religion
Lorri Jean

This year is the 25th anniversary of a watershed case involving the conflict between religious liberty and lgbt rights.  In Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown University, the DC Court of Appeals held that the DC Human Rights Law required the University to accord the benefits of recognition to gay student groups at the Law Center and at main campus. The court separated the question of endorsement, which the University had a right not to do, from the material benefits at issue, which the University was forced to provide.

The Georgetown decision was an extremely important milestone in LGBT rights law. After the decision, the University elected not to pursue a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court and, instead, granted benefits to the gay student organizations. The suit had dragged on for almost a decade, and the legal battle had been bitter.

How amazingly times change. Last month, the law school held a symposium celebrating the decision and recognizing the student and faculty leaders who had stood up for equality. Dean William Treanor read names of the law school faculty members who signed an amicus brief in the 1980s supporting the gay student group. Lorri Jean, then leader of the plaintiff group and now CEO of the LA Gay Community Center, gave a compelling account of how it felt to be David in this battle against a Goliath.  In the most  amazing sign of change, the audience included the head of the (official) LGBTQ Resource Center on main campus, which now gives the Lorri Jean Award each year to a graduating student. With her was Paul Tagliabue, a Georgetown alum who donated $1 million to support the Resource Center. The office of University President John DeGioia was one of the sponsors of the event. 

There is video of this extraordinary event, and a special issue of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, which organized the symposium, will publish the proceedings.

It made me proud of Georgetown. 

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