TAG | OutLaws
On Monday, April 16, the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law will be hosting a panel discussion on “Homophobia in Sports and Developments in Policies at the Institutional Level.”
The event will be from 12:10 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., and the event is free, open to the public, and lunch will be served. The law school is located in Drinko Hall at 55 West 12th Avenue. (Facebook event with all the details here; RSVPs are appreciated for planning purposes.)
I am very pleased that this event is coming together, and the two speakers that will be on the panel are great: Professor Erin Buzuvis, a Title IX guru, and Brian Kitts, a co-founder of You Can Play. (Their complete bios are below.) Oh, and yours truly will be moderating the discussion.
I also had a wonderful meeting with Sr. Associate Athletics Director, Miechelle Willis, yesterday about the event. Ms. Willis focuses on student-athlete wellness and was very receptive to the slated message for the event. So receptive, in fact, that she agreed to send out an invitation of the event to all the student-athletes and coaches at Ohio State! I have no idea if any will accept the invitation and attend, but the possibility excites me!
While the exact questions and topics for discussion have not been finalized, this is the preliminary list of ideas I have come up:
- NCAA’s new policy for transgender athletes: what are the rules, how did it come into effect, etc.
- Does Title IX apply to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in college athletics?
- Culture of masculinity in men’s sports and resulting sexist/homophobic conduct (Iowa’s pink visitor locker room, Ohio State ‘lavender jersey’)
- Perceptions and stereotypes of sexuality of men versus women athletes
- Impact and importance of allies in sports
- Negative recruiting in women’s sports: what is it, how prevalent is it, and how does it affect players?
- Implications of NFL, MLB, and NBA adding ‘sexual orientation’ to class of people protected from discrimination in collective bargaining agreements
- State of homophobia and growing numbers of allies in professional sports
I hope to see you there on Monday!
Oh, you may not be in Columbus or have a prior commitment? Don’t worry, we have arranged to have the event recorded and I will be uploading it here as soon as I can. (I plan to splice the video into parts for each question asked, hoping it will be more user-friendly.)
Here are complete bios for the speakers:
Brian Kitts is co-founder of the You Can Play Project, an international effort to promote respect for LGBT athletes in sports. Brian spent more than 10 years in the front offices of professional sports teams in the NHL, NBA, MLS and the NLL. He is the marketing and communications director for the mayor’s office of Arts & Venues in Denver, and teaches sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Denver.
Professor Erin Buzuvis researches and writes about gender and discrimination in sport, including such topics as the interrelation of law and sports culture, intersecting sexual orientation and race discrimination in women’s athletics, retaliation against coaches in collegiate women’s sports, the role of interest surveys in Title IX compliance, participation policies for transgender and intersex athletes, and Title IX and competitive cheer. Additionally, she is a co-founder and contributor to the Title IX Blog, an interdisciplinary resource for news, legal developments, commentary, and scholarship about Title IX’s application to athletics and education. In addition to a seminar about sports, law and culture, she also teaches administrative law, employment discrimination, and property. Prior to joining the faculty in 2006, she clerked for Judge Thomas Ambro of the Third Circuit and practiced law at Goodwin Procter in Boston. She also spent time as a Visiting Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law.
Today the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University hosted an event entitled, “The National Agenda for Same-Sex Marriage.” The event featured a discussion on the history of same-sex marriage with renowned panelists Evan Wolfson and Holning Lau.
Wolfson, a graduate of Harvard law, worked with Lambda Legal on the first marriage cases in Hawaii, argued before the Supreme Court in Boys Scouts of America v. Dale, and is the Founder and Executive Director of Freedom to Marry.
Lau is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and is currently a Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law with an expertise in family law and sexuality and law.
The event featured each with introductory remarks followed by a question and answer from those in attendance (one count had the attendance at 176, nearly filling the Saxbe auditorium). I tried to keep somewhat of a narrative of the event, transcribed here.
PART 1: Holning Lau’s Introductory Remarks:
Holning Lau began the event by focusing on Perry v Schwarzenegger. Lau explained that the case is particularly notable for three reasons:
(1) The role of Ted Olson
The presence of Ted Olson, a notable conservative, as counsel in favor of equal marriage elucidates the shifting dynamic of views on same-sex marriage. The most significant shift in the discussion has been the shift from self-identified conservatives. Olson’s role in the case exemplifies that the issue is not defined as a liberal versus conservative issue, but rather that there is common ground that both sides of the political spectrum can/should support.
(2) The existence of factual findings in the record
Since there was a trial that built a factual record, the case illuminated that the passage of Proposition 8 was founded on myths. The record clears misconceptions of what is fat and what is fiction. These clarifications support why conservatives may want to favor same- sex marriage: same-sex marriage has no impact on opposite-sex couples, there has been no “doomsday” consequences from states that have recognized same-sex marriages, and that there are specific improvements to the well-being of same-sex couples.
(3) Judge Walker holding that denying access to marriage is a form of sex discrimination
The argument that banning same-sex marriage is sex discrimination, at a cursory level, is that if you base marriage policies on strict gender roles on what the male and female are expected to do – the role of the father/husband and mothers/wife – then the strict gender roles are discrimination based on sex.
PART 2: Evan Wolfson’s Introductory Remarks:
Evan Wolfson continued the discussion with a broader overview focusing on two points:
(1) Gay people want the freedom to marry for the same reasons that non-gay people want to marry.
Wolfson premised this remark that it needed to be stated even considering the assumption that young people, like most in the crowd, are more supporting of equal rights for the gay community (and they are more supportive even if raised in traditionally non-supportive households like Evangelical Christian) because most young people know actual, real gay people and not just stereotypes of gay people.
On the main point that gay people want the freedom to marry for the same reasons, Wolfson listed some of the many reasons why people, both gay and straight, want to marry: emotional and economic, practical and personal, social and spiritual, and for love and in the law.
He added that deny access to the common vocabulary term of marriage is to say the gay population is unworthy of something so important; it is to deny that safety net of the law that touches every area of life.
(2) There is a strategy for ending this discrimination and for holding the country to the promises of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence
Looking at history, Wolfson and Freedom to Marry developed a “Roadmap to Victory” as a call to action with three tracks that must be taken simultaneously, not subsequently.
First, we need to win access to marriage in more states.
Second, we need to continue to improve the public opinion. We need to grow, solidify, and diversity what is now a majority of support for marriage. What was just 26% approval 15 years ago at the time of the first case for marriage in Hawaii has grown to 52% as of August 2010 according to two national polls. This shift is due in part to the younger generation findings its voice and a general shift in views with people like Ted Olson, Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, and even Glenn Beck.
Third, we need to tackle and end discrimination at the federal level, such as the Defense of Marriage Act.
Wolfson noted that this is the path America is on and it is a path seen in history. Yet the push must continue. It must be through litigation, through removing bad legislation, but most importantly, it must be through personal engagements and conversation.
Part 3: Questions and Answers
The rest of the event included questions and answers. For simplicity’s sakes in the responses, EW = Evan Wolfson and HL = Holning Lau.
Question: Is there any strategy to respond to backlash from the hard line right?
EW disagreed that it should even be called a “backlash” since the policies of discrimination have been established for a long time, so in a sense, “they” started it. Now it is just a matter of tearing those already established discriminatory practices down. It is more of a struggle between two opposing views, and the anti-gay forces are now in the minority.
HL added that it was also to engage the opposition in discussion as much as possible. There can be gains in the movement by finding the source of opposition whether it be religious or otherwise and trying to find common ground.
Question: How is it best to address someone who has both a religious view against same-sex marriage as well as a view that promotes specific gender roles and identities?
EW noted that you are not necessarily going to convince everyone. Progress is an interplay of law, society, and culture; each will lead or follow the progress at various times.
HL agreed that you can’t win over everyone and added that younger generations are generally more likely to be skeptical of explicit gender roles.
Question: With 52% majority approval, is there any preference or benefit to progress coming through the Supreme Court, federal legislation, or incrementally through the states?
EW warned that even with the two polls showing a majority, there is no self-actualizing component of change. The public opinion may be an essential ingredient, but we still need to turn that into action and active engagement. He also added that we cannot expect cases to reach the Supreme Court or to wait for that. We can’t take it for granted. We need to maximize our change of winning with a multi-faceted approach.
Question: What is the most effective thing that non-lawyers can be doing?
EW said that the single most important thing to do is to talk about the subject: explain to colleagues who gay people are and what marriage means to them. He added that we can’t take for granted assumptions that those that understand the issues are in favor of same-sex marriage or that those that are not there yet will not ever get there. To have these discussions, he recommended arming yourself with the talking points and arguments of history and of fairness. Lastly, he added that this push needs to not just happen in California or New York, but it needs to happen in Ohio. We need to begin talking about Ohio families and the harm they suffer from the state’s discriminatory laws.
Question: Is the push for marriage equality necessarily the best focus for the community or is it even an institution that the gay community should seek at all?
HL noted that the seeking marriage equality is just a part of much larger push for law reform that includes broadening the scope of family reform. He added that with marriage it may be that the institution is over-privileged, and maybe it needs reform in other ways.
EW added that focusing on marriage equality is important because it represents the most reprehensible form of discrimination: state sponsored discrimination that singles out one group of citizens for different treatment. EW also noted that there have been more progress in legal protection in other areas – creation of Gay Straight Alliances in schools, progress in employment discrimination, ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – that come as a product of the campaign for marriage equality.
Question: Are there any poll results for the level of support in Ohio, particularly for the segment of Evangelical Christians?
EW did not know the numbers for Ohio offhand, but he did cite to a New York Times piece by Nate Silver that used a regression model of various trends to predict when the public opinion should be sufficient in each state to make the push for equality. What matters, however, is not the exact numbers, but the current lack of protections for the LGBT citizens of Ohio.
(Note: EW did not know Ohio’s “time” from Silver’s model offhand, but it is the year 2013. Time to get to work, everyone.)
Question: Is there any push today to include more curriculum on sexuality in schools?
EW was not too familiar with this area but did note that there are organizations like GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) working on this.
HL added that there is more to the question of acceptance in schools than formal curriculum. There is now freedoms to set up Gay Straight Alliances and a 1st Amendment recognized right to bring whoever you want to prom.
Question: Obama recently changed his stance and is now open to reconsidering same-sex marriage. Any comment on this?
EW said the source of Obama’s shift is likely due to acknowledging the momentum of the movement and in recognizing that there are no solid arguments against same-sex marriage. Obama is on a journey just like anyone else and we need to help him along that journey. It is our job to tell him, and others, to tell the story of why it is important to both gays and straights.
Question: What are some other “products” that can come from progress in marriage equality?
HL said its everything from employment discrimination, housing, treatment of the transgender community, and in schools and bullying.
EW added that ending formal policies does not end the fight. It did not with racism or sexism and it will not end the work here either. But, he recognized that it will still be a major step in advancing the work.
Question: How has the Perry litigation and other marriage cases sought to redefine and dismantle gender roles?
HL noted that Perry was an excellent opportunity to dismantle traditional gender roles.
EW added that aside from the intrinsic challenge to sex roles in the cases, the progress for marriage equality is the most effective way to dismantle expected gender roles.
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The event was part two of three of “The Gay Agenda” series and was co-hosted by OutLaws, the Moritz Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the national and Moritz chapters of the American Constitution Society.
Part 3 of the event, focusing on potential backlash to progress in the movement, will be held in February 16, again in the Saxbe auditorium at the Moritz College of Law.
Special thanks to Professor Marc Spindelman who moderated the discussion and for three students who put together the superb event: Joseph Wenger, Ashley Carter, and Richard Muniz.
Last week, I was able to attend two OutLaws events at Moritz. The first, co-hosted by ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), titled, “Struggling for Equality: The Progress of GLBT Rights in Ohio,” was held on Tuesday in our auditorium. The second, on Thursday, was a small discussion group with a partner and an associate from Jones Day about being openly gay at a large firm.
The “Struggling for Equality” event was split into two parts. Kim Welter, from Equality Ohio, started with a presentation on the current state of gay rights in Ohio. Based on a handful of objective criteria, Ohio was tied for second to last for state legislation for the LGBT community. Wow. Columbus is such a gay friendly city, and although I knew it was not the same across the state, I would not have expected Ohio to be below the middle of the pack. Kim pointed out that although many of the cities and counties in the state are doing a decent job for protecting LGBT rights, outside those boundaries, the pertinent state laws are lagging behind.
They handed out an excellent pamphlet with glaring statistics to highlight the areas where the Ohio state laws do not match the values of the population. The statistic with the most disparity? 91% of Ohioans say people should have a guaranteed right to visit their partners in the hospital; Ohio law allows hospitals to keep them apart. Another interesting one was that 63% of Ohioans say that students should be safe from bullying based on real or perceived orientation or gender expression. I’d really like to know what the other 37% think. With multiple recent suicides among young students resulting from bullying based on perceived sexual orientation, it is remarkable that anyone would consider this bullying behavior as acceptable.
The second half of this presentation was by Tara McKenzie Allison from TransOhio. Her presentation went through the succession of case rulings in Ohio pertaining to Title VII protection from discrimination based on sex under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I loved the excerpt she pulled from a case opinion relating transitioning transgendered people to a convert of any religion. An employer cannot say they are okay with Jews and Christians, while discriminating on those that convert; thus, Title VII should also protect those that are in the process of transitioning their sex or gender.
The second event of the week, the discussion group with staff from Jones Day, was less relevant to gay rights in general and to even my own aspirations, but it was still an excellent event to attend. Greg Gorospe, a partner who is also involved in their diversity initiatives, said all the right things. But he also acknowledged that simply saying the right things, or having the right policies on the books, cannot substitute for an opening and accepting culture. I was glad that the discussion group also included Travis Jackson, an openly gay associate at Jones Day. His remarks about the business culture and how welcoming the company has been to him and his partner were important. The disparaging revelation came not from Jones Day, but rather, the lack of response for the other large firms that the OutLaws co-chairs Drew and Kara contacted. Their silence or reasons to not participate indicate that although some firms, like Jones Day, may be good work environments for the GLBT community, many still have remnants to the unfortunate white, male, conservative roots of the legal community.
I want to thank Kara and Drew for helping to plan these events and Kim, Tara, Greg, and Travis for their presentations. I’d encourage you to check out the links above if you want to learn more about the organizations or their initiatives.