Gay-Rights Advocates Have Transformed the Legal Profession, Law Prof Says in Op-Ed
In 1961, astronomer Frank Kemeny wasn’t able to get legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union when he was fired from his federal job for being gay. At the time, the laws in all 50 states made sodomy a crime, and the ACLU did not help him file a petition for cert, later turned down by the Supreme Court.
Since then, gay rights advocates have “mobilized at every level of the legal profession,” according to University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter. In an op-ed for the New York Times, he outlines the changes.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund formed in 1973 to fight for legal rights for gays. At the same time, advocates lobbied law schools and groups like the ABA to adopt nondiscrimination policies. Law firms had to agree not to discriminate if they wanted to recruit at law schools, leading to new policies. When the Supreme Court struck down a sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, large law firms and groups like the ABA supported the Lambda Legal challenge, Carpenter says.
“Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation,” he writes.
Carpenter notes King & Spalding’s decision to withdraw from defense of the federal law that refuses to recognize gay marriages. In his view, the reversal suggests the extent the legal profession has accepted that sexual orientation is not a measure of a person’s self-worth.