Monthly Archives: May 2018

Letter from Co-Chair

Firstly, let me take a moment to congratulate the graduating class of 2018. At our annual Pride Awards and Lavender Graduation ceremony this year I was blown away by the number of students in attendance. As we all packed into The Miller-Ward Alumni House the sense of community and acceptance electrified the rooms. Students and alumni mixed and mingled, and occasionally let out cheers of glee as they spotted old friends from across the room. The entire evening remind me of why I got involved with GALA and the Alumni Association at the beginning.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that when you first graduate and start “adulting,” life is hard. You have to fight through endless amounts of traffic daily, begin to pay back student loans, and, of course, all while trying to be social in your non-existent free time. GALA provided me an escape from those struggles. Over my involvement, this organization has expanded and strengthened my social network, introduced me to longtime LGBT activists, and most of all given me a close knit group of friends in an even closer knit community.

It is because of these wonderful experiences with GALA that I write this letter with a heavy heart. Due to an impending relocation related to personal opportunities elsewhere, this is the last month I will be your co-chair. In my place are Maury Weil 68C and Neil Vasudeva 16B. I am confident that these two longtime volunteers will fulfill GALA’s mission of maintaining and expanding a network of alumni in order to organize, serve, and advocate for Emory’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. On a more personal note, I can’t wait to see what work they accomplish!

We do have some openings on our executive board, so I urge anyone interested in getting involved with GALA to reach out to myself, Gloria Grevas of the EAA, or our new co-chairs about how to get involved.

Yours in Pride,

 

 

 

 

 

Ryan Rusiecki 13Ox 15C
Co-Chair, GALA: Emory’s LGBT+ Alumni

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GALA Advocacy Spring 2018

GALA had an interest in two Georgia General Assembly Senate bills, neither of which passed the House, which is required for a bill to become a law. SB 373 The Georgia Enhanced Penalties for Hate Crime Act proposed extending crime penalties based on the victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Georgia is an outlier among the states for not having such a provision. The bill was first introduced with a different purpose but was replaced with the Hate Crimes substitute in a House Judiciary Committee after it passed the Senate and came over to the House. The bill received no further action in the House. 

The second bill created permissions and protections for child-placing agencies which discriminate against LGBT+ people wanting to adopt children or be foster parents. Discrimination would be justified by “sincerely held religious beliefs”. GALA wrote a letter asking Governor Deal to veto the bill based on the 1st and 14th amendments, the weakness of the religious beliefs argument, potential financial harm to Georgia and Georgia’s citizens, and basic justice and fairness withheld from a single minority group. It is not constitutional to wall off a disfavored, disenfranchised minority and deny them equal protection of the law without a compelling scientifically provable reason. There is not a preponderance of evidence that LGBT+ parents are significantly inferior parents. Additionally, a statue should not deny aggrieved parties the right to redress their grievance with due process as specified in the 5th and 14th amendments.

 The purpose of law is to dispense justice. Inclusion, love and family are central to identity and happiness, and should not be denied to any person or group without justification that passes a high bar. The General Assembly operates on a biennium calendar, meaning Representatives and Senators are elected every two years. Bills not passed the first year are carried over to the second year, but all bills not passed at the end of the second year can no longer be acted upon unless reintroduced in the next elected General Assembly. As “religious freedom” is a high priority for conservatives and discriminating against LGBT+ people seems to be touted as fundamental to “religious freedom,” it is likely a similar bill will be introduced next year.

Submitted by Maury Weil 68C

Emory GALA marches in Pride Parade in October 2017.

 

GALA Social Events

As the school year winds to a close, GALA remembers the wonderful events we celebrated in the past few months. These events celebrated the achievements that not only we as a community have made together, but also those made by individual students, staff members, and alumni alike as they work to better their communities and those around them.

On February 28th, the Emory LGBTQ community gathered at the Miller-Ward Alumni House for the annual Pride Awards. A networking event for graduating students was held prior to the event. There, GALA co-chair Ryan Rusiecki gave a toast to congratulate the students and to welcome them into the alumni community of Emory University. The celebration was well attended by students, staff, and alumni. Notable among them was Emory’s 20th President Claire Sterk, who gave the opening statement at the Awards. As the celebration proceeded, the community recognized the many achievements of the past year. The awards portion of the event culminated in the recognition of graduating LGBTQ students from all schools within Emory in the form of rainbow cords and lavender diplomas. These served to recognize them not only as graduates, but also new members of Emory’s ever-expanding LGBTQ alumni family. The event concluded with ample amounts of dessert and more than an hour of friendly mingling.

On March 29th, we celebrated the kickoff of a brand new initiative coming from the Law School: Emory’s LGBTQ Legal Services! Nicknamed ELLS for short, this brilliant organization works to provide pro bono legal aid to Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. To kick-off ELLS, more than 50 students, staff, and other supporters of this initiative took to Professor Mary L. Dudziak’s house in Morningside. Highlights of the evening include toasts made by program heads Danielle Bruce-Steele and Mary Dudziak, as well as speeches given by ELLS founders, Nicole Schladt 18L and Faris Mohammed 18L. The crowd stayed well into the evening enjoying heavy hors d’ouvres, adult beverages, and, of course, some rainbow cake.  (Read more about this organization and the work they are doing here, https://bit.ly/2I6dgxZ.)

Coming up next is our summer social in late August. Each year it is a fun and informal event when members of the LGBTQ community can get together to bond and enjoy the end of the summer. Keep an eye out for more information to come, and we’ll see you there!

Pride Awards given to deserving individuals on February 28, 2018.

 

Office of LGBT Life Update

The Office of LGBT Life is basking in the quiet of finals time here at Emory. With the Spring semester closing and the ’17-’18 academic year in the rearview, we are inhaling and preparing for the deep breath of reflection afforded to us in the (relatively) calm summer. As we reflect, we are reminded of the busy spring 2018 full of programs and events.

In February, the office staff – along with the Center for Women (CWE) and the Office for Racial and Cultural Engagement (RACE) staffs – hosted International Coffee Hour, connecting with dozens of international students. Just a few weeks later, we hosted the Annual Pride Awards, celebrating the accomplishments of graduating LGBTQ students and active community members. Complete with remarks from Emory University’s President Claire Sterk, the Pride Awards was a huge success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in March, the office supported OUTLaw, the LGBTQ affinity group in the Emory Law School, at their Out in Law networking event – connecting students to LGBT attorneys and alumni. Danielle Bruce-Steele, our director and that of ELLS (Emory LGBTQ Legal Services), shared remarks at the ELLS Launch Party at the end of March. A partnership with Emory Campus Life and the Emory Law School, ELLS will offer pro-bono legal assistance to LGBTQ folks in the Atlanta area! Learn more about ELLS here.

Like it is for many others in student affairs, April was a whirlwind of a month. The office, CWE, and RACE hosted a Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) Brunch, fostering a sense of community and identifying the needs of QTPOC folks at Emory. To close out this year’s Queer Discussion Group (QDG) experience, we held an end of year gathering a few weeks later, inviting all members and facilitators of the 10 QDGs to enjoy food and fellowship.

Culminating a semester of curation, collaboration, and persistence, we celebrated the opening of Stepping Out of Line: Exploring LGBTQ Activism at Emory. This exhibit was co-curated by our student staff member, Jackie Veliz 18C, and other members of the Rose Library. We hosted an end of the year reception and guided curator tour complete with alumni, staff, and students.

 

 

 

 

 

To close out April, winners of the Dr. Daniel D. Adame Leadership Fund – Jackie Veliz 18C and KJ Lewis 19T – grabbed lunch with Dr. Adame and our coordinator, Natalie Turrin. With support from the fund, award winners traveled to Mexico to engage in research and to Maine to attend a conference on podcast production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Office of LGBT Life is thrilled about this year’s commencement season! Earlier this semester, Natalie Turrin successfully defended her dissertation, and will graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Congratulations, Natalie!

Looking ahead, on June 5th we will host our colleagues from across Georgia who engage in LGBT advocacy work at higher education institutions. We look forward to growing, learning, and connecting as we refocus for the summer and plan for the 2019 academic year!