Monthly Archives: November 2016

EMORY CELEBRATES PRIDE

14633519_10154244941034822_2664106108314330945_oOver 100 strong, proudly wearing Emory Pride T-Shirts, the Emory contingent of marchers in the 46th Annual Atlanta Pride Parade on October 9th was truly outstanding.  Grandly flying a big blue Emory flag, our Emory group partied fully in the spirit of the beautiful fall day which began downtown, moved through Midtown, and ended at Piedmont Park as thousands of onlookers lined the streets to show their support.

Of course, Pride was celebrated on campus leading up to the Atlanta Pride Festival, and nowhere on campus was this more evident than at our Rollins School of Public Health.  You couldn’t miss it.  There was an exhibition that featured nearly two dozen posters related to LGBTQ health, a Rainbow-themed photo booth, a Rainbow Road walkway, a bedazzling station (where many students added rhinestones to their Emory PRIDE T-Shirts worn in the Pride Parade), an information table stocked with volunteers and brochures of local organizations, and a series of events and speakers that honored the history of PRIDE and the importance of LGBTQ lives.

In addition to the myriad moments of fun and levity, the Rollins School of Public Health and the school’s LGBTQ Student Association, the Queer/Trans Collaborative, also curated 13 different posters that focused on topics related to the history of PRIDE and a number of public health issues that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community (e.g., homelessness, discrimination, injection use, intimate partner violence, HIV, etc.). In addition, 11 posters spotlighted Rollins’ faculty members who lead research related to these topics.

Several events took place from October 3rd – 6th, including rainbow popsicle stands, a documentary showing the history of Pride, a keynote Speaker, Khafre Abif, who shared his vision of working with the Obama Administration to prioritize health issues related to bisexual populations, and a memorial service honoring the lives lost in Orlando, summer of 2016.

This exhibition and series of events brought students, staff, and faculty across Emory to look at how one school can celebrate not only PRIDE, but how students and leaders within a school can take action to honor the lives and achievements of the LGBTQ community.

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Dean Curran: Co-Presidents of the Rollins School of Public Health’s LGBTQ Student Association, the Queer/Trans Collaborative, Marcel Foster and Lynn Benoit, stand in the 2016 PRIDE Exhibition with the school’s Dean, James Curran.

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Khafre: the 2016 PRIDE keynote speaker, Khafre Abif, speak with the Queer/Trans Collaborator’s Co-President (Lynn Benoit) and Communications Chair (Shannon Clawson)

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LGBTQ Grad: leaders and member’s of Emory University’s newly formed LGBTQ Grad Coalition, which features a committee of LGBTQ leaders from the Laney School of Graduate Studies, as well as schools of Public Health (Rollins), Theology (Candler), Law, Medicine, and Business (Goizueta). The students take a photo in the PRIDE photo booth!

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Rainbow Road: Queer/Trans Collaborative Executive Board members (Lynn Benoit, Shannon Clawson, and Marcel Foster) lay out on the Rainbow Road, a 25’x 6′ rainbow set through the exhibition and created exclusively for this exhibition

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Raphiel: Raphiel Murden (PhD Candidate, Rollins School of Public Health and Laney), the Vice President of the LGBTQ Grad Coalition at Emory, brings magic to the rainbow

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JOE O’GEEN RETURNS TO EMORY AS EAA’S GALA LIASON

staff-joe-o-geenJoe O’Geen, an Atlanta native, has returned to Emory to serve as the new Assistant Director for Affinity Alumni Engagement.  A graduate of the college in 2010, Joe served as a Hall Director Fellow overseeing Harris Hall and working for University Conferences.  He went on to pursue his master’s degree in HigherEducation Student Affairs and held an assistantship with the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs at Florida State University.  Since then, Joe has worked in Residence Life at the University of Maine, and most recently Northwestern University.

Joe is also heavily involved with the Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Alumni Volunteer Corporation, is serving as a mentor for a Point Foundation Scholar, and is an Open Expression Observer.  In addition to serving as the staff liaison for GALA, Joe also works with Emory Muslim Alumni, Caucus of Emory Black Alumni, Alumnae and Women of Emory, Emory Latinx Alumni, and the newly formed Emory Hindu Alumni.

Welcome back Joe!  GALA is excited to be working with you!

 

Update from Office of LGBT Life

By Danielle Steele, Director, Office of LGBT Life

The fall months at Emory’s Office of LGBT Life saw cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and plenty of pride!

On September 2, Jim Obergefell visited Emory to discuss his experience as lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality case. Obergefell was joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Debbie Cenziper and Lambda Legal attorney Tara Borelli for a panel discussion and book signing. GALA helped fund the event, along with the Office of LGBT Life, Emory OUTLaw, and Campus Life. More than 160 people were in attendance.

On September 21, the Office of LGBT Life celebrated Bi/Pansexual Awareness Week by tabling at Wonderful Wednesday. Student staff facilitated a balloon-popping game that helped “bust” myths about bi/pansexuality. Later that evening, LGBT students participated in “Hire US: Connecting a Diverse Workforce with Inclusive Employers.” Hire US supplemented Emory’s Fall Career Fair so that LGBT students could learn how specific employers support minorities and strive for a more inclusive workforce.

Then, October began with fanfare as Emory marched proudly through the streets of Midtown in the 46th Annual Atlanta Pride Parade on October 9. The excitement continued with Emory’s celebration of National Coming Out Day on October 13. The Office of LGBT Life passed out buttons and shared coming out stories with the Emory community in the DUC Coca-Cola Commons.

On October 20, Emory hosted a screening of the film Suited, an HBO documentary featuring Emory Law student Everett Arthur 17L. The screening was followed by a panel discussion including the documentary’s director, Jason Benjamin, and cast member Rae Tutera. Suited follows clients of Bindle & Keep, a tailoring company out of Brooklyn, New York, as they navigate the social pressures surrounding clothing in various environments. Bindle & Keep creates bespoke suits for gender non-conforming and transgender clients. The Office of LGBT Life helped fund the event, along with Emory OUTLaw and the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia. More than 50 people were in attendance.

On October 26, the Office of LGBT Life celebrated Asexual Awareness Week by tabling at Wonderful Wednesday. Student staff and members of Aces and Aros, a discussion group for asexual and aromantic individuals, helped Emory students decorate sugar cookies and learn about the asexual spectrum. To round out the month, Emory Pride hosted its annual Drag Show on October 28. Student and faculty groups competed for the top prize of $200 in this long-standing Emory Halloween tradition. All proceeds raised by the Drag Show will go to continuing the work of Emory Pride on campus.

Most recently, the Office of LGBT Life commemorated the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 17. The Emory community gathered together to remember victims of transphobic violence and learn more about how to make Emory a safer and more inclusive campus.

This fall the Office of LGBT Life also expanded its full-time staff to include two new positions. The Office welcomed Natalie Turrin and Megan Pendleton to serve as the Coordinator for Gender and Sexuality Programs and the Assistant Director of LGBT Life, respectively. Natalie moved into her new office during September, and Megan followed shortly after in November.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, Director Danielle Steele and Emory’s Office of LGBT Life would like to extend their thanks to GALA for continuing to support the work we do within the community. We would never be able to have such a successful semester of programming without your help! Please contact Danielle Steele at dmsteel@emory.edu if you are interested in being more involved with the Office of LGBT Life. You can also keep up-to-date with our activities through our Facebook page.

 

MARRIAGE EQUALITY PLAINTIFF VISITS EMORY

On Friday, Sept. 2, Emory OUTLaw hosted a panel discussion featuring Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, and Debbie Cenziper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Obergefell and Cenziper recently released a novel titled Love Wins, which details Obergefell’s involvement as a plaintiff in the landmark same-sex marriage cases that landed before the Supreme Court in 2015.

Obergefell and Cenziper spoke about their new novel before more than 160 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members at Emory Law School. Tara Borelli, a Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal, also joined the conversation to speak about Lambda Legal’s role in litigating Obergefell. Dean Robert Schapiro of Emory Law School moderated the panel discussion, and current OUTLaw President Nicole Schladt opened the floor to the audience for a brief question-and-answer session.

Following the panel, Obergefell and Cenziper signed copies of Love Wins and mingled with the crowd. A huge thank you to generous GALA donors for helping to sponsor Obergefell and Cenziper’s visit to share their powerful story with the Emory community!

(Please find a series of four photos from the event attached below.)

 

1Dean Robert Schapiro, Debbie Cenziper, Jim Obergefell, OUTLaw President Nicole Schladt, and Tara Borelli.

2Emory Law School Dean Robert Schapiro moderated a panel discussion featuring Tara Borelli, Jim Obergefell, and Debbie Cenziper.

3Members of Emory OUTLaw pose with Jim Obergefell and Debbie Cenziper.

4Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell sign copies of their new novel, Love Wins, for the crowd.

GALA Delivers on Emory Cares International Service Day

A workforce of 20 GALA members and other Emory alumni and friends volunteered at Lost-N-Found Youth in observance of the 2016 Emory Cares International Service Day on Saturday, November 12th .

This is the second year that GALA has worked with Lost-N-Found Youth, “Atlanta’s leading non-profit with the specialized expertise and dedication to the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth.”  Lost-N-Found maintains a crisis support hot-line and youth center, and distributes supplies to the estimated 950 LGBTQ homeless youth who are in Atlanta on any given day.

GALA volunteered in Lost-N-Found’s thrift store, organizing donated goods so that they can be sold.  Volunteers organized various sections of the store, including men and women’s clothing, as well as children’s toys, bath and body, home décor, and a large items section.

Volunteers were also shown a video announcement from Rick Westbrook, the Lost-N-Found Director.  In a show of support for Atlanta’s homeless LGBTQ population, Westbrook was preparing to spend 48 hours camped out in Ansley Square Mall, relying solely on donations from passers-by to survive.  He also announced plans to expand Lost-N-Found’s housing program and youth center, whose attendance surged after last year’s Supreme Court decision.

“I volunteered with Emory Cares on Saturday at the Lost-N-Found thrift store,” said John Van Vlack, 85B.  “Their work with homeless youth moved all of us.  It was great to connect with Emory alumni while helping this worthy organization.”

For more information on Lost-N-Found, including how to contribute, see their website at LNFY.org.

Alumnus Spotlight – Lawrie Demorest 81L

Of Lawyers and Lionesses

Our own Aby Parsons, former Co-Chair of GALA, recently sat down with prominent alumna attorney, Lawrie Demorest, for a conversation recalling just part of her LGBT Life Story. Here is what she learned from her encounter.

 

Sitting in the 49th floor office of Lawrie Demorest (81L), partner at Alston and Bird LLP and an award-winning attorney in the area of product liability litigation, it’s hard to imagine how anyone would have thought her legal career wouldn’t amount to much.

Yet, the late Dean of Emory Law School, Ray Patterson, did just that. Demorest recalls his admonition to her when she first arrived at Emory: “I remember having a meeting with him and him telling me, ‘People who start law school under your circumstances usually don’t succeed.’”

Demorest had indeed taken a route to law school that was less conventional at the time. Graduating from Franklin and Marshall in 1976 with a BA in English, Demorest soon moved down to Atlanta. “I actually followed a woman,” admits Demorest with a smile. Taking up work as a paralegal, which was a relatively new profession at the time, Demorest spent two years in the working world with a boutique insurance defense firm before making the decision to go to law school.

The main appeal of Emory Law School for Demorest was, quite simply, “convenience.” Emory’s program was the only accredited day program in the area, and she had already put down roots in Atlanta, so she threw in her lot with Emory, and made the bold but risky decision not to apply to any other schools.

The gamble paid off. “I LOVED law school,” says Demorest. “It was the first time I had ever cared about school and studying…I just loved the logic and rationality of everything.” Finding herself immersed in work that invigorated and challenged her, Demorest excelled academically. “At the end of the first semester, I had ended up in the top five per cent of the class.” Demorest pauses, a mischievous glint in her eye. “And I remember the extreme satisfaction of knowing that Dean Patterson knew I was in the top five per cent!”

After graduation, Demorest found herself defending doctors in medical malpractice suits for a law firm in Atlanta. The nature of the cases meant that her clients’ careers and reputations were on the line, making their investment in their cases deeply personal. “They’re trying to do their best for their patients, and things don’t always go well, so they get sued,” explains Demorest, “so it was emotional.” Her bold, meticulous, and sympathetic counsel won her many grateful clients, including one who expressed his admiration with a unique gift – and nickname! Demorest points to a photograph of a lioness on her bookshelf. “This was given to me by one of my doctor clients,” she says proudly. “He said that I was his lioness.”

Finding her path…Again

In 1989, Demorest moved to Boston and joined another law firm where she undertook a grueling trial schedule that led her to the verge of burnout. Feeling disenchanted with her career path and dissatisfaction with the firm she was working for, Demorest went to the partner who had hired her and submitted her resignation – only for him to decline it. “He said ‘No! Don’t leave. Let’s call it a leave of absence,’ and I said ‘Fine, call it whatever you want. I’m not coming back,’” she laughs.

Demorest pursued her interest in photography, and, inspired by her father’s passion for volunteer work, immersed herself in activism with AIDS Action Boston, using the break from the courtroom to discern the answers to two burning questions: “Am I gonna stay up here? And am I gonna continue practicing law, or do something else?”

After four years in Boston, which included months of reflection, the answer was clear: Return to Atlanta and rediscover her love of the law. In 1993, Demorest joined powerhouse law firm Alston and Bird LLP and made partner in 1996, becoming the first openly gay partner at a major law firm in the city…once she figured how to come out, that is.

“It was hard to make it happen naturally,” she laughs. “I wanted to BE out, but I wanted someone to have a conversation with me where it would be just, ‘Oh well, as a matter of fact…’because I didn’t just want to go down the halls announcing it.” It was on a car ride to Macon with a colleague that Demorest finally found a way to drop it into the conversation, and then there was no going back. Fortunately for Demorest, Alston and Bird was known for its inclusive work environment and its progressive LGBT policies – both factors that earned it the nickname ‘The Happy Firm’ among employees.

Demorest has since had such a prominent profile in LGBT advocacy that it’s hard to imagine a time when she wasn’t sure how to be out. In 2002, she began a three-year stint as Co-Chair for the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors, which was immediately followed by two years of service as Co-Chair of the Board for the HRC Foundation. Demorest remains active in the HRC to this day with a role on the Emeritus Council, a group of former board members that act as ambassadors for the organization. Why the lifetime commitment to the HRC? “It was LGBT civil rights,” Demorest enthuses. “It gave people a voice, and it gave people a way to advocate and to lobby and to educate.”

FIGHTING FOR HER FAMILY

It was this passion for LGBT equality, combined with her prowess as a litigator, that led Demorest to tackle one of her toughest cases to date. Demorest’s partner, Lee, was an avid golfer, and had joined Druid Hills Country Club near Emory. Demorest, as Lee’s domestic partner but not her legal spouse, was granted only guest privileges. “I was really uncomfortable with joining,” recalls Demorest. “I felt like a hypocrite. But it meant a lot to her, and so it was the first big compromise I made for the sake of the relationship.”

Lee joined the club with the promise that they would work to change its discriminatory policies from the inside. When the couple decided to have children a few years later, they agreed it would be best to push for a change in policy so that the whole family could gain access to the benefits of the club together. “We went to the club and said ‘It’s time, and we want to be treated as full family members,’” explains Demorest. “And the Board said no…My kids can go there, our nanny or babysitter could go there with them [as guests], and I could go there with them, if I’m their guest – I could be the kids’ guest. That was the only way I could take them to the pool.”

Undeterred, Demorest and her partner looked to a recently passed City of Atlanta ordinance to force the club’s hand. The ordinance stated that any business that did business with the City was not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and so Demorest and her partner seized on the opportunity to file a complaint with the City’s Human Relations Commission. At the resulting hearing, Demorest represented herself and her partner where she found herself firmly in her wheelhouse. “I had so much FUN!” exclaims Demorest. “I’m a litigator, so I got to cross-examine the club president!”

The case she made was convincing enough for the Commission to rule in her favor, but their feeling of vindication was short-lived. “There was no teeth in [the ordinance] that could make the club admit us,” says Demorest, and then Mayor Shirley Franklin was not exactly eager to pursue the matter further. She called Demorest and Lee and pressured them to drop the case, expressing her concern that the ordinance would get overturned by the state legislature if they continued to push the issue. But Demorest was persistent, telling Franklin, “If the ordinance has no teeth in it, then what good is it anyway? And yes, we do want to pursue this.”

Franklin acquiesced, and began fining the club every day to pressure it into changing its policy. The club fought back, suing the city and prompting Franklin to insist that both parties go to mediation to resolve the issue.

It was during these drawn-out legal wranglings that Franklin’s fear was realized: the state legislature was in session while Demorest and the club battled it out, and it overturned the ordinance before a resolution could be reached. Although disappointed with the outcome, Demorest found some reassurance in knowing that many of the other club members supported their efforts to change the policy, and that the club rightfully received negative press for its outdated policies. “They got a black eye for it in public, and a black eye among other clubs,” says Demorest. “But it’s one thing that will probably always stay with me.”

After the lawsuit, Demorest channeled her energies into her work, her activism with the HRC, and raising the twin boy and girl that she adopted with Lee. But even with all that she has accomplished, the ambitious and tenacious Demorest shows no signs of settling down into a quiet life anytime soon. “I’m just getting to the point where I’m thinking, ok, what’s your next passion gonna be?” she says. “It doesn’t have to be gay stuff. But that’s the place I’m in right now – finding my next passion.”

 

President Sterk Visits the Blue Jean Brunch

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GALA’s  annual  Blue Jean Brunch and Fundraiser was a special day indeed!  Our new Emory President, Claire Sterk, surprised us with a visit that capped another successful GALA Homecoming event.

Our Blue Jean Brunch,  traditionally the highlight of our yearly social calendar, began as usual with about 40 alums, students and guests visiting and celebrating with an abundance of great food and drink.

Our Co-Chairs, Markbradley Kitay and Scot Seitz welcomed the crowd and gave an overview of  GALA accomplishments in the past year, and what we might look for in the coming year.  Danielle Steele, Director of the Office of LGBT Life, also spoke about the many programs which they offer to our LGBT students, and also what we should look for in the future.

But President Sterk’s surprise visit literally made the day!  Our new president gave a short address to our group, but more importantly, she remained with us for another  half hour, speaking with us individually, posing for pictures, taking time from her busy schedule just to get to know us and thank us for being an important part of our Emory community.  It was quite a day for GALA!

Of course, we will be inviting President Sterk to visit an upcoming meeting of our Steering Committee, and we look forward to having a great relationship with her as she leads Emory into the future.

Coming up next on our social calendar is our annual Holiday Party, and we have a special venue this year.  Our party will be on Thursday, December 1st, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM, at Bar Margot in the Four Season’s Hotel  in Midtown.  So make plans to attend this special event.  You can register here.

Also, we are looking forward in the spring to our annual Theater Outing, and, of course you will not want to miss the 25th Annual Gay Pride Awards on March 2nd.  It will be special.  We are looking forward to another great social year at GALA, so come and join in!