GAY LAW STUDENTS PUSH FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
by Wayde Frey
Law Students for Human Rights is an active gay
group for law students and other graduate students
at the University of Texas at Austin.
Now in its second academic year, the group has
about six active members, all of whom are students
in the UT Law School.
Their purpose is to provide a visible gathering
point for gay law students, to educate straight lav;
students about gay concerns, to establish a continuing
gay presence in the UT Law School, and to bridge the
gap between gays in the Law School and those in the
rest of Texas.
Law Students for Human Rights is the first, and
still only, openly-gay group at the UT Law School. It
was founded in April of 1979. Eight people, including
three women, attended the first meeting. Sage White
was the only woman law student at the first meeting,
and is the only remaining member of the original group.
The first name the group chose for itself was
the Gay-Lesbian Law Alliance. Feeling there was
safety in numbers, five law school faculty members
signed as sponsors for the 1979-80 school year. For
the 1980-81 school year, people were "less freaked
out by a gay law student group." This year's single
faculty sponsor is Pat Hazel.
Law Students for Human Rights (from left):
Bill Brown, Walt Wilder, Sage White,
David White, and Marvin Provost
In the summer of 1979, a gay Austin UT Law School
alumnus set up a meeting with the Gay-Lesbian Law
Alliance. He told them he felt the group should
change its name so "there would not be a lot of heat
put on gay lawyers in Texas." He also stated that
the students would have difficulty getting jobs after
law school unless they changed the name. So the group
became "Law Students for Human Rights."
In November, 1979, after Sage White and Ginny
Cleaver participated in the March on Washington, Sage
and Visiting Professor Mary Dunlap from Equal Rights
Advocates in San Francisco, the first (and still only)
• UT Law School professor to come out publicly on campus
at the law school, reserved the law school auditorium
("because it had so many entrances and was so big and
dark that people could come and go unobserved,") for
a noon seminar on the rights of gay people.
Forty or fifty people attended this first public
gay function at the UT Law School. Although there are
plenty of gay women and men in the law school, many of
them did not attend this public meeting. ' A number of
people lingered outside, but were afraid to actually
go in, Sage White reports.
People at the UT Law School are career-oriented
and do not want to risk future jobs. Gay law students
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' Sage' says'." * 'she* points' out that there is 'some 'basis' "for
paranoia. "Good moral character" is required for admission to the bar, and this phrase has never been
defined. Prospective lawyers are examined in the county
of their original Texas residence. County ethics
committees could define "good moral character" narrowly
and exclude a gay person from the legal profession
simply for being gay.
Sage wants the Lav; Students for Human Rights to
request an opinion from the State Bar concerning sexual
orientation and an exact definition of "good moral
The gay law student group makes referrals to
sympathetic lawyers in Austin and would like to compile
a list of sympathetic lawyers in places outside the
Austin area. "Gay lawyers are a resource that the
gay community needs," Sage White says.
Law Students for Human Rights requested that a
written non-discrimination policy from the law school
be expanded to include sexual orientation. So far,
that request is still in limbo.
With such a small membership, the fate of Law
Students for Human Rights is uncertain. Sage White,
David White and Bill Brown will finish law school in
May, 1981. Marvin Prevost and Walt Wilder have another
year and a half to go. Unless more gay law students
choose to involve themselves, there will be nothing
much done in the area of gay people and the legal
profession at the UT Law School.
The members of Law Students for Human Rights are
eager to develop coalitions with other law groups such
as feminists and ACLU members. David White is having
a hard time getting other gay law students interested
in joining this group. Sage says there is a Women's
Law Caucus at the law school, and some of its members
are lesbians. She isn't sure why other women haven't
gotten involved in the gay law student group.
Marvin Prevost wants potential group members to
( realize that the Law Students fc lghts group
is not limited to out-of-the-closet types or to political activists. Marvin says the group is glad to
welcome women, minorities, and friendly straights.
Law Students for Human Rights can be contacted
days at their office in the Law School Annex, 471-
5151 ext. 210, and nights at 477-7257, or 477-7867.
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