Rutgers Law-Camden Faculty Address LGBT Issues in Scholarship, Courses

Rutgers Law-Camden Faculty Address LGBT Issues in Scholarship, Courses



Results from the 2012 elections included the passage of same-sex
marriage referendums in several states, prompting some political observers to
suggest a positive shift in attitudes towards the concerns of the LGBT
community nationwide.

The rights of America’s LGBT citizens clearly is at the forefront of
contemporary civil rights debate and dialogue. 
At the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, a core group of faculty already are
addressing – and helping to define – legal matters that impact lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender citizens in the Delaware Valley and across the
nation.

“The LGBTQ population is an integral part of every society on a global,
national, and local level, but laws seldom reflect this reality,” observes Margo Kaplan, an assistant professor at
the Rutgers–Camden law school.  “This
failure generates myriad injustices that members of the LGBTQ community, their
families, their friends, and their neighbors experience on a daily basis.”

Katie Eyer, also an
assistant professor, shares that assessment. 
"There are innumerable ways that members of the LGBT community
remain openly legally disadvantaged in our society today.  That legal inequality has profound
implications for LGBT individuals and their families, in the most extreme cases
resulting in lack of access to basic employment, physical security, health care
and other advantages that most of us take for granted.

Rutgers Law-Camden Faculty Address LGBT Issues
Rutgers Law-Camden faculty pictured (left to right): Katie Eyer, Margo Kaplan, Jason Cohen, Kimberly Mutcherson

“LGBT law is one of the cutting-edge civil rights issues of our
generation.  For those students who may
choose to become actively involved in LGBT civil rights issues, it is an
amazing opportunity to become involved in securing equality for a group that is
still often openly legally disadvantaged in our society.

The opportunity to build exceptional lawyering skills while also
working on behalf of the LGBT community is a significant attraction for
Rutgers–Camden law students, perhaps most significantly for those engaged in
the hybrid writing clinic Advanced Legal Writing: Community-Based Practice.  Taught by Jason Cohen, a clinical professor at the Rutgers–Camden law school,
students in the clinic work with the Mazzoni Center, a Philadelphia
organization that provides free legal services to low-income members of the
LGBT community.

The outcomes are striking for both the Rutgers law students and their
clients.

“Students appreciate the ‘real-life’ aspect to the course,” explains
Cohen. “The class gives upper-level students an opportunity to break the chains
of formulaic 1L memo writing, in that they are able to innovate their analysis
and writing. For example, because the students are performing work for a client
who, for example, wants to bring a lawsuit, the aim is not just to find and
identify the case’s weaknesses. Rather, in these scenarios, the students have
to creatively think about legal ways around weaknesses in a manner consistent
with both the client’s and assigning attorney’s goals. This thinking has changed
students’ ideas of what an ‘objective’ memo should be in practice.

“One 2L student said this aspect of the class was essential to the type
of research and writing he would perform months later for a big firm summer
internship.”

Cohen serves on the legal advisory board of the Mazzoni Center as well
as its Board of Directors.  He also is on
the executive board of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP).  A former litigator with a Philadelphia firm,
he sees an opportunity for increased service to the LGBT community.

“I am hoping that as gays and lesbians see more mainstream acceptance
and support for their same-sex relationships, the movement will turn to those
segments of our community whose priorities have been perhaps marginalized in
favor of big-ticket issues like same-sex marriage,” he says.  “I'm hoping to see more attention focused on
issues affecting lower income LGBT folks, and trans awareness and education.”

Eyer also looks forward to the evolution of LGBT policy and law.  Prior to joining the Rutgers–Camden law
faculty, she litigated LGBT employment cases, including precedent-setting cases
in the Third Circuit expanding the legal rights of gay employees, such as Prowel v. Wise Business Forms, 579 F.3d
285 (3d Cir. 2009)  and Dolan v. CMHCS, 500 F.Supp.2d 503 (M.D.
Pa. 2007). 

Her legal scholarship in LGBT law mirrors her experience in legal
practice.  “I am interested in how the
LGBT rights movement may be able to learn from the experiences of other groups
that have achieved formal equality, particularly around issues of how to
meaningfully do equality work in a society that often does not ‘see’
discrimination,” explains Eyer, who serves on the legal advisory board of the
Mazzoni Center.

Every aspect of law and society impacts the LGBT community.  In her course Health Law, Policy, and
Community, Kaplan devotes a full section to LGBT health, which she describes as
“an area that is often overlooked (particularly transgender health and LGBTQ
youth). The course looks at the complex interaction of legal, political,
cultural, and social drivers that affect LGBTQ health and health care.”

As director of planning and research with the Center for HIV Law and
Policy in New York City, Kaplan “worked on several LGBTQ-related issues, perhaps most notably in
efforts to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth in state custody and to oppose
criminal laws that target LGBTQ individuals in the US and on a global scale.”

The convergence of LGBT issues with larger societal trends appears
across multiple courses at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden.  In her courses “Family Law,” “Bioethics,
Babies, and Babymaking,” “Health Law Policy: 
HIV/AIDS and the Law,” and “South African Constitutional Law,” Kimberly Mutcherson

regularly
incorporates discussion of legal issues related to LGBT people.

 

“These courses allow me to teach an intricate mix of law and policy
related to some of the most pressing issues of our time, including those
related to how to understand the relationships between LGBT people and the law
on a range of issues such as discrimination in family formation and access to
the tools of assisted reproduction,” says Mutcherson, an associate professor at
the Rutgers–Camden law school.

 

“It is also the case that the study of health law policy related to HIV
demands an exploration of HIV status, the identities of people of minority
sexual orientations, and their relationships to the law.  I think it's critical for students to
understand the personal and political ramifications of how the law chooses to
deal with difference.”

Mutcherson is a faculty advisory for OUTLaws, the LGBT student group at
the Rutgers law school.  She notes that
the law school community understands the civil rights issues arising from LGBT
concerns.  “Students who have not spent
time in law school thinking through the ramifications of how the law's
increasing acceptance of and protection for LGBT people changes what it means
to be a parent, or a member of a family, or a citizen of the United States will
be poorly equipped for dealing with 21st-century law,” she says.  “Marriage equality is one of the biggest
issues shaping the law right now.  Issues
of family formation for LGBT people, which I cover in some detail in my Family
Law course, are at the forefront of civil rights issues for LGBT people.  How these issues get resolved will shape both
the future of the LGBT rights movement for years to come and the future of
family law in general.”

 

 

Media Contact: Mike Sepanic
(856) 225-6026
E-mail: msepanic@camden.rutgers.edu