There seems to be a fracas in the making at the University of Michigan Law School, ignited by the controversy over California’s Proposition 8.
Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition that changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman, and eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. The proposition did not affect domestic partnerships in California. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly supported the proposition, along with other religious organizations.
It seems that an advertisement [PDF] recently appeared in the New York Times that was signed by one of the UM Law School’s professors, Douglas Laycock. It read, in part:
The violence and intimidation being directed against the LDS or “Mormon” church, and other religious organizations – and even against individual believers – simply because they supported Proposition 8 is an outrage that must stop. …
Regrettably, some public voices have even sought to excuse the threats and disruptions simply as “demonstrations” that got out of hand. Perhaps that’s true in some cases. Far too many, however, have never been demonstrations in the first place, but more nearly mobs, seeking not to persuade but to intimidate.
In fact, various media outlets have documented civil rights demonstrations against the LDS Church and others, and civil rights groups attempts to “out” Prop. 8 supporters. But even the group behind the ad can’t identify a single documented case of violence, short of anonymous petty vandalism.
The UMLS Outlaws LGBT Students & Friends Association response:
Outlaws and the Law School want to use this occasion to stress that Michigan Law School is an institution that is welcoming of LGBTQA students and that the Law School values the diversity that our community helps provide.
And from Sarah C. Zearfoss, Assistant Dean and Director of Admissions:
Bottom-line, if you are concerned, based on Professor Laycock’s signing of the letter in the New York Times, that the University of Michigan Law School is a place where a prospective LGBTQ law student wouldn’t feel welcome or would feel under siege, then I think your concerns are misplaced. We have an excellent and very active Outlaws student group, and a faculty and administration that are committed to maintaining LGBTQ diversity at this Law School.
The fact is, Proposition 8 was hateful, and opposition to gay marriage is bigotry, no matter the basis for your beliefs. Californians, and all Americans, have the inalienable right to protection from enforced religious law. If homophobes were being victimized with violence, that would absolutely be wrong, although some blame would have to rest with the “victims,” whose “victimizers” would never have even known of their existence if the “victims” had not interfered with their private lives. But that scenario is not playing out. At all.
Having your political contributions publicized is not harassment, violence or intimidation. Protests at public locations, even angry protests, are not harassment, violence or intimidation.
Activists who wish to use the government to enforce their religious beliefs on others should instead do some soul-searching, and ask why they seek to overthrow the religious and personal liberties this nation was founded upon.
– Erik David Even