Arts & Entertainment
U-M law students, we salute you
Brave graduates make gay rights go mainstream
Originally printed 4/28/2011 (Issue 1917 - Between The Lines News)
Our hats are off to the class of students at the University of Michigan's Law School for making it clear that gay rights are mainstream civil rights, no different than anyone else's.
When it was announced that their commencement speaker was going to be Rob Portman, a U.S. Senator who has long opposed gay rights, some brave students decided to do something about it.
They sent a letter, signed by 98 graduating students, to the law school dean. Then they sent another letter, signed by 200 first- and second-year students. Some of them even sent personal letters to Portman.
What did their letters say? Graduating student Imran Syed, who spoke out in an April 13 op-ed in U-M's newspaper, the Michigan Daily, sums it up best:
"Our graduating class is among the first of a generation that views equality based on sexual orientation as something more than an academic question on which people can agree to disagree. We have been raised in a slightly more enlightened world, and count amongst our friends and colleagues many gay people who continue to face discrimination that is abhorrent to the spirit of constitutional protections afforded to all people. There was a time when such discrimination was common, and acceptable. That time has passed."
And even though Portman is still planning to speak at the ceremony and the school won't rescind its invitation, the students aren't quieting down. They're purchasing rainbow tassels and pins to wear at their ceremony, and some are even considering a walkout.
Now, a graduation ceremony is supposed to be a celebration - in this case, for getting through the prestigious law school at U-M. One would think that all of this debate (and potential walkout) would distract from the recognition that the students deserve.
"Many of us wish we weren't having to contemplate walking out on our graduation day," Sarah St. Vincent, a graduating law student, told BTL last week. "But at the same time, if it comes to that, this is what we believe in and we're proud to make the statement."
To which we heartily congratulate the graduates, and say: We're so proud that the world belongs to you.