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Letter from the LGBT Law Forum

| Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The purpose of this letter is to allow the LGBT Law Forum, a student group at the Notre Dame Law School, to address a recent criticism in a letter to The Observer regarding hosting Jim Obergefell on campus. This event will take place today, at 12:30pm in the McCartan Courtroom at the Notre Dame Law School. Jim Obergefell will be speaking to students, faculty, staff and community members about his experiences as a plaintiff in one of the most legally and socially relevant cases in recent history. Lunch will be offered, and everyone is welcome.

The LGBT Law Forum seeks to provide a forum in the law school community for the scholarly discussion of legal issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. LGBT issues are prevalent across all areas of the law, including: civil rights and discrimination cases, employment cases, military and veterans’ issues, immigration policies, foster care and juvenile justice, public accommodations and housing, as well as criminal defense. The Law Forum’s activities serve all law students by helping address such legal issues in an informed manner.

Jim Obergefell’s case radically shifted the federal landscape by broadening the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Because of the magnitude of this case and its impact on the lives of students on Notre Dame’s campus, we have been awaiting this talk for months. Notre Dame Law School aspires to be a place where diverse viewpoints sprout, flourish, and collide. Censorship does not belong here.

Notre Dame recognizes that robust debate is fundamental to a well-rounded legal education. According to the Law School’s website, “we are here to cultivate the life of the mind with openness and respect for every point of view.” The LGBT Law Forum embraces this charge whenever it gets the chance. For example, when Ryan Anderson, a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, spoke on campus last semester, several members of the LGBT Law Forum’s executive board chose to attend. We respected the views of the student group that hosted the event, in accordance with the Law School’s mission.

Now, the LGBT Law Forum has the opportunity to showcase a leader within our community to share his point of view.  In our attempt to bring forth thoughtful discussion, our presence on campus has been questioned. Instead of embracing into the rigor of debate and free thought, we have been told the following: “Nobody forced you either to apply or to enroll. ” In effect: we do not want to hear your opinion, do not apply to this school. For many years, this statement accurately represented the University’s position. However, attitudes towards LGBTQ rights have changed, especially among Catholics.

In 2017, 67% of American Catholics expressed support for same-sex marriage. The overwhelming majority of Catholic colleges and universities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Increasingly, the Catholic Church has been called upon to reconsider its teachings on LGBTQ individuals. Pope Francis has encouraged dialogue and understanding with the LGBTQ community, and just this month took a picture with a group of LGBT Catholics and their families on Ash Wednesday. It is important to note that one of the plaintiffs speaking today is a Notre Dame alumni. Greg Bourke, as well as his husband Michael DeLeon, are both lifelong Catholics and supporters of Notre Dame.

The criticism that our club faced in The Observer letter to the editor is nothing new. As a Forum, we have confronted blatant discrimination, even from professors, and have faced an uphill battle when it came to getting our student organization recognized. If anything, the negative comments the Forum has received only highlight a problem that students have been fighting against for years. Many of you might know this, but Notre Dame does not protect students, staff or faculty on the basis of sexual orientation. The LGBT Law Forum wrote a letter to administration asking them to rectify this critical lapse in our non-discrimination policy. If you would like to join us in fighting for those protections, please sign here.

We would like the writer of the previous letter to the editor to know the LGBT Law Forum is not only going to host Jim Obergefell today, but we will continue hosting thought-provoking events and working to ensure diversity and inclusion on campus. Come by the law school at lunch; Jim, Greg and Michael will be available to answer your questions. No need to RSVPeveryone is welcome.

Sincerely,

The LGBT Law Forum

March 26

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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