Love is Love: Law school organization examines LGBTQ+ legal history and rights


Casey Sebastiano

The Love is Love Banquet was held at Limestone Hall on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Casey Sebastiano | Staff

Casey Sebastiano, Reporter

The UK Rosenberg College of Law’s LGBTQ organization, OUTLaw, held its first Love is Love Banquet at Limestone Hall in Lexington on Feb. 16.

The event focused on the legal history and future rights of the LGBTQ+ community and has been in the making since the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, according to Dakota Shugars and Tate Craft, OUTLaw’s Co-1L Representatives.

“OUTLaw hoped to bring together members of the legal community to spark thoughtful conversation about the future of LGBTQ+ rights. The current US Supreme Court is a scary place to look for LGBTQ+ support/affirmation so knowing how to adapt legal arguments is critical when opinions like Dobbs (overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey) are narrowing the scope of privacy rights,” said OUTLaw treasurer and second year UK law student, Will Baird.

Along with opening up the legal aspect of the conversation surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, these events also provide support to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Baird attended highschool in Eastern Kentucky where there were no LGBTQ+ organizations. He then attended the University of Louisville where the LGBTQ+ community was constantly thriving.

According to Baird, moving to Lexington for law school is what pushed him to get involved in OUTLaw. There are organizations in Lexington, such as JustFundKY, that aim to provide support to other organizations in Kentucky.

These organizations are so critical in halting the tide of oppression against LGBTQ+ people, like the bills we see working their way through the General Assembly at the moment,” Baird said.

The event featured UK professor Daniel Canon as the keynote speaker, in which he shared his experiences of being a civil rights attorney, educator and writer.

Canon attended the University of Louisville for both his undergraduate and law programs. He currently works as an attorney as well as a law professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.

As an attorney, Canon’s focus is on civil rights cases and fighting for the rights of marginalized persons. He is most known for his role as lead counsel in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case which granted same-sex couples the freedom to marry. 

Canon was chosen to give the keynote address as he is “a well respected civil rights attorney in Kentucky and Indiana, and his work with Bourke And Love (Kentucky cases that were consolidated on appeal into Obergefell) was instrumental in the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality,” Barid said.

Canon has attended events similar to OUTLaw’s Banquet over the years. He said he delivers these keynote addresses for the students.

“Students — especially those from historically marginalized or underserved communities — need to know that they have support from law professors and the legal community in general,” Canon said. “They need to hear honest words of encouragement and affirmation.”

Canon spoke to attendees about the progress made over the last 50 years regarding LGBTQ+ inclusivity and protection laws. He said while the laws are what make a written change in our country, the support attorneys provide to members of the LGBTQ+ community is what drives these changes. 

“Our work is not always to win, our work is to provide support,” Canon said.

While not every case is won in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, that does not mean progress is not being made.

“Change starts with people and if one person left that room inspired to commit themselves to calling a state legislator, running for office, taking on a LGBTQ+ civil rights client, etcetera, then the event was a smashing success,” Baird, who also spoke to the narrative that progress consists of more than just winning a case, said. 

According to Canon, the support the LGBTQ+ community has today would not have been possible in 1972, not even 20 years ago; any more possible than Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell winning their case and being granted the freedom to marry in 1972.

“Rule change equals real change,” Canon said.

Canon received a standing ovation once his address had concluded.

Canon was not the only attorney present. There were a handful of law firms that attended the Banquet, including Baird & Baird, Dinsmore, Frost Brown Todd, McBrayer, and Stites & Harbison.

Other attendees of the legal community included members from the Human Rights Campaign and the UK General Counsel’s office. The 22nd Kentucky Judicial Circuit, which represents Fayette County, was represented as well.

“It is amazing that many of them are dedicated to educating themselves on the current standing of LGBTQ+ rights,” Baird said.

Faith Gingrich-Goetz, UK Law graduate, former OUTLaw president and former campaign director of the Human Rights Campaign, was also in attendance. 

Gringrich-Goetz said she feels that events such as this banquet open up the conversation to people who may not pay attention to the issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights.

Baird stressed the importance of learning how to fight for LGBTQ+ rights in a constantly changing political climate.

Canon said the best thing someone can do to get involved is to organize.

“Call the activists and organizations that are already involved in this work and ask how you can contribute,” said Canon.

With UK OUTLaw, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Their next event is their annual OUTLaw Drag show on March 23 at 8:00 p.m. held at The Bar Complex.