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Charles B. Sears Law Library SUNY Buffalo Law School

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Brightening Up Our Present Night

Posted on: | by Christine Anne George |


The post below is written by second-year SUNY Buffalo law student, Daniel DeVoe. Daniel is the president of OUTLaw, a student organization dedicated to promoting a positive atmosphere for LGBT students and their supporters, and educating the community about legal issues dealing with sexual orientation and gender issues.

Rachel Maddow shared an insightful little story on her MSNBC news program last week. She spoke about a common natural wonder: gazing up at the night sky. Did you know that the light we see each night radiating from those stars has, in many cases, taken years to get to us? In fact, the stars that produced much of that light may be long gone before it finally reaches Earth. Yet there it is: old light brightening up our present night.

Maddow wasn’t merely giving us a science lesson. She was referring to the light given off decades ago by early gay rights activists that we finally saw reach us last week in the Supreme Court. The nine justices heard oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor, challenges to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act respectively. Regardless of whether those cases ultimately favor gay families, the mere talk of marriage equality echoing off the walls of the Supreme Court marked a watershed in the LGBT civil rights movement.

As I ate my breakfast last Tuesday morning, I watched the live feed on C-SPAN of rallies held in DC. I noticed something in the corner of the screen: the outline of the Supreme Court’s western façade. If you’ve ever been there, you know the words “Equal Justice Under Law” welcome each person walking up those marble steps. These are the times when I am truly proud to be an American, the moments when I stop to notice that those who built this country had a vision for it that we are continually realizing. Justice Scalia pondered last week the precise date it became illegal to deny gays and lesbians their fundamental rights as citizens. I have a feeling that, in the United States, this has always been true, whether or not those living at the time fully understood the reach of their founding principles. The values we’ve treasured for so long as a nation have, in many ways, always been a bit before their time.

No, it’s still not easy street for gay Americans in 2013. But I think most of us know the story of the United States, and we know this story is one of progress. We may not get the sweeping landmark decision we hope for in June. We may never get our Brown v. Board. Hollingsworth and Windsor may prove to be less than ideal test cases, and marriage certainly isn’t the final frontier in achieving legal equality. Nonetheless, we know what’s end game. Those in Stonewall knew it. Harvey Milk knew it. The members of ACT-UP knew it. Edith Windsor knows it. Those nine justices know it. I know it. You know it. It’s merely a question of when.

This Friday, SUNY Buffalo Law School welcomes the return of its annual OUTLaw Dinner and Celebration. Attorneys, community members, law school faculty, and students will once again converge to celebrate all of us who work both inside and outside the justice system to make a place for gays and lesbians in the world. OUTLaw may not be familiar to you, but it actually has a long history here at the Law School. I cannot think of a more timely moment for its rebirth.

I hope you’ll join us Friday evening. We’ll toast to “the sight of fossilized light in a growing universe.”

For more information, please visit our website:

To find out more about the keynote speaker and honorees, please stop by the display near the Study Aids on the 2nd floor of the Law Library.

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