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‘Love Transcends’: OUTLaw hosts second annual banquet

Samuel Colmar
Guest speaker Suzanne Goldberg is introduced during the OUTLaw Love Transcends Banquet put on by the College of Law on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, at Limestone Hall in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

The University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law’s LGBTQ+ organization, OUTLaw, hosted its second annual banquet with this year’s theme, “Love Transcends,” centered around transgender rights on Feb. 22. 

Shades of red, pink and black filled Limestone Hall on Thursday night as members from local law firms and legislative organizations gathered to discuss the current and future status of the LGBTQ+ community.

“This year we wanted to be bold,” Will Baird, OUTLaw’s secretary and banquet chair said. “We wanted to talk about something that is really on the hearts and minds of a lot of LGBTQ+ people, which is the attack on trans people.”

Baird, who is in his third and final year of law school at UK, said these banquets are the backdrop for meeting people in the legal community who are queer friendly and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Along with bringing together the community, Baird said OUTLaw was able to make a profit from “Love Transcends,” in which they will partner with the Student Public Interest Law Foundation (SPILF) to establish the Mark Kightlinger LGBTQ+ Advocacy Summer Grant.

Kightlinger, an H. Wendell Cherry associate professor of law, helped start OUTLaw at UK in 2005 and served as OUTLaw’s faculty adviser for nearly 20 years before stepping down this year, Baird said.

Kightlinger was unable to attend the banquet, but many other supporters of OUTLaw and the LGBTQ+ community were in attendance, including Seth Church, an associate attorney at Dinsmore & Shohl in Lexington.

Church said he became a member of OUTLaw at his alma mater, Emory University, which is when he first fell in love with the organization and its mission.

“I remember seeing a listing of student organizations and getting to OUTLaw and just knowing I want to go, so I went to the first meeting, and some of my best friends to this day are people I met in that meeting,” Church said. 

Now an OUTLaw alum, Church said he always tries to stay involved with local OUTLaw groups, including showing up to events like “Love Transcends.” 

Church said these banquets will be an “every year” occasion for his firm due to many reasons, including the promotion of camaraderie and education in the LGBTQ+ and legal communities. 

One aspect that particularly aided the education during “Love Transcends” was the conversation between keynote speakers Suzanne Goldberg, acting assistant secretary for strategic operations and outreach in the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, and Emma Curtis, candidate for council district four in Fayette County.

“There’s certainly a need for those to better understand what the current landscape is when it comes to LGBTQ(+) rights and especially trans rights in the state of Kentucky,” Curtis said.

Before discussing cases and laws, Goldberg shared that she participated in a version of OUTLaw at Harvard University that was discreetly named so there was not an obvious correlation to the LGBTQ+ community.

Goldberg also said she faced discouragement from teachers after accepting her first job at Lambda Legal, the largest organization focused on LGBTQ+ litigation.

“I think that love in the world has changed,” Goldberg said.

Despite the strides that have been made in the LGBTQ+ community, Goldberg and Curtis brought many issues to light, including at least 510 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, most notably Senate Bill 150, which Goldberg said were in state legislatures in 2023. 

“That would suggest that we are engaged in a crisis and that the existence and possible thriving of LGBTQ people is one of the greatest risks that our society faces,” Goldberg said.

Along with highlighting bills, Goldberg and Curtis referred to recent events in the trans community, including 16-year-old Nex Benedict’s death resulting from an altercation in an Oklahoma school bathroom.

Benedict’s death is one story that Church said has reminded him of the need to “protect trans kids,” the same three words that are printed on his suit pin.

Church said leaving “Love Transcends,” he will push himself to be more engaged and involved as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I think it is an opportunity for all of us to be there for our future generation, and I want to see us step up to that challenge,” Church said.

 Sharing similar thoughts, Curtis said she envisions a city where there is unity and a bridging of both LGBTQ+ and community members.

“I would hope that we can lead by example here in Lexington and here in Kentucky by having good faith, difficult conversations with our neighbors and provide an alternative to that anger and division, which is love and understanding,” Curtis said.


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About the Contributors
Reaghan Chen, Opinions Editor
Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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