Thursday, September 26, 2013

Student Organizations: The Gay/Straight Legal Association

The Gay/Straight Legal Association at the Appalachian School of Law

Students organized this association in 2003 to stimulate an active discussion on issues pertinent to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.  It's unofficial motto:  "We love everyone!"

Mission Statement

The Gay/Straight Legal Association (aka Outlaws) strives to provide a social network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied students with the law school and the legal community.  It also works to provide education about legal issues which impact the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.  It also strives to help build a safe and tolerant society that respects diversity and offers gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons equal protection of the law.

Membership Requirements

Membership in the association is open to all students, faculty, staff, and alumni and shall not be denied to any person based on age, race, sex, religion, handicap, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

However, in accordance with the policy on privacy defined in the Constitution, members of the Executive Committee shall not reveal the name of any member to any non-member with out the express written consent of the member. They can, however, reveal names of members to other members of the association.  

Policy on Privacy

The Constitution further provides: 
The Gay/Straight Legal Association recognizes the value of  "coming out" not only to the community but also to the individual; the Gay/Straight Legal Association also respects the right and the need for each gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person to personally decide when and to who to "come out."  The Gay/Straight Legal Association is intended to offer support to students suffering from discrimination.   
Unfortunately, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender students do not enjoy protection from discrimination everywhere in the United States or the State of Virginia.  Therefore, many schools do not advocate the "outing" of a member's sexual orientation, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, or heterosexual . . . . Disclosure of one's sexual orientation is an important personal decision.  All members of the Gay/Straight Legal Association are expected to respect their fellow student's privacy.
The Gay/Straight Legal Association encourages all students to participate in promoting the goals of the group to the best of each individual's capabilities.  Through the efforts of all affirming students, the Gay/Straight Legal Association believes that, one day, sexual orientation will not prohibit individuals from having equal opportunity.  
Sponsored Events and Activities 

In 2013, the GSLA -- in partnership with the American Constitution Society -- sponsored a debate/discussion about the Defense of Marriage Act featuring Professor Stewart Harris and Associate Professor Doug McKechnie.  Over 50 students and faculty members attended the forum.

GSLA plans a follow-up forum to discuss the issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case that challenged the law.  An analysis of the decision appears here.  Briefs filed in the case are listed here.  A copy of the decision appears here.

The group also hosts film viewings that profile well-known gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender persons -- like Milk -- or films that otherwise celebrate individuality.

Historically, GSLA has worked collaboratively with the ASL chapters of the American Constitution Society and the Sutin Public-Interest Association (SPIA) to build solidarity and work for social justice for all disenfranchised groups of people.

To that end, in 2008, it co-sponsored -- with BLSA -- an on-campus presentation by former Black Panther activist and Green Party candidate, Elaine Brown.  She spoke on Juveniles in the Adult Prison System.

The group organized a trip for six members to New York City for the annual National Gay and Lesbian Bar Association conference.

More generally, the association hosted workshops on tolerance in Appalachia, including information on transgender theory.

In 2011, the student body elected as President of the Student Bar Association a GSLA member who was the school's first openly gay African-American man -- Lance McFadden.

Associate Professor Derrick Howard serves as the faculty advisor.

Persons identified by name or depicted in all photos on this blog gave me permission to publish the information.

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