LGBTQIA Activities and Support
“As part of Stetson’s proud faculty, we are committed to ensuring that members of our community not only thrive at Stetson, but are inspired to become advocates who can further support the rights of others.”
— Professor Joseph Morrissey
Stetson embraces all aspects of diversity. With global citizenship and social justice among our core values, we invest considerable effort in recruiting a diverse student body, including students from the LGBTQIA community. We have openly gay and lesbian professors and staff, and LGBTQIA students are active leaders in all areas of student life. The domestic partners of Stetson students, faculty and staff have access to health insurance benefits.
The Gulfport/St. Petersburg area provides an equally supportive community. The Human Rights Campaign recognized St. Petersburg as the top city in Florida for attention to LGBTQIA issues in Fall 2014, and the five-day-long St. Pete Pride festival is the largest Pride event in Florida. Stetson Law participates in its annual parade, which attracts more than 100,000 people each summer.
Stetson students have donated legal pro bono service hours toward drafting the Equality Handbook published by Equality Florida, which is based in St. Petersburg. They have also helped successfully advocate for the City of Gulfport to pass a human rights ordinance protecting citizens from being denied services based on their sexuality. Gulfport also was the first city in Pinellas County to create a domestic partnership registry to extend legal rights related to health care and dependent education to domestic partners.
Stetson offers a number of courses related to gender and sexuality issues, including:
- Law and Sexual Orientation
- Constitutional Law and the Civil Rights Movement
- Feminist Jurisprudence
- Family Law
- Adoption Law
- Employment Discrimination
- International Law of Human Rights
Juris Doctor students may also pursue a certificate of concentration in social justice advocacy. The program requires students to complete specialized coursework in civil or criminal social justice issues and focus their pro bono service, experiential learning, and advanced writing activities to serve the cause of social justice.
Lambda Legal Society
The Lambda Legal Society at Stetson provides a forum to explore the legal issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization welcomes students of any sexual orientation interested in raising awareness of the issues attorneys deal with for the increasing number of gay and lesbian clients who seek legal protection. Lambda works with Stetson to provide a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQIA students and allies.
A Vibrant Student Life
LGBTQIA students are involved in every facet of student life, including the Student Bar Association, Stetson Law Review, our award-winning advocacy boards, and a number of other organizations. Stetson students have worked on service projects for Equality Florida and the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas, and others have interned at LGBTQIA advocacy organizations.
Faculty Leadership and Scholarship
Stetson’s out professors are active in campus life and in the greater academic community.
Professor Ellen S. Podgor, editor of the popular White Collar Crime Prof Blog and president of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools, has published an article on sexual orientation and ethics standards and is a former chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues.
Professor Joseph Morrissey, who co-coaches Stetson’s highly decorated Vis International Arbitration Moot competition team, has published and presented on sexual orientation and equality in the law. He has served on the steering committee for Equality Florida and has presented at the ABA’s Lavender Law Conference.
Professor Jason Palmer is the chair of the Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). He teaches Stetson’s Law and Sexual Orientation seminar, and he has presented on his research about LGBTQIA elder law issues and marriage equality issues in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court Windsor and Perry decisions.
Professors Podgor, Morrissey and Palmer serve as co-advisors for the Lambda Legal Society, and the professors co-taught a course on Civil Rights and the Constitution: The DOMA and Marriage Cases while the U.S. Supreme Court was deliberating on the cases.
Tampa Bay Stetson Law alumni have raised funds to endow a PRIDE award, which is given each year to a graduating student who has contributed greatly both to the Stetson Law LGBTQIA community and the community at large. David Brunell ’11, a writer for Huffington Post Gay Voices, spoke at a recent fundraising event for the award fund.
Stetson’s LGBTQIA alumni include prominent lawyers and academics who advocate for equality. Vincent D’Agostino ’12, who recently completed an internship in the White House Office of AIDS Policy, served in 2010 as a regional chair for the National LGBTQIA Bar Association’s student division. He also completed an internship with the national office of the Lambda Legal Society.
One of the pioneers in the field of lesbian jurisprudence, Ruthann Robson ’79, is a member of the Stetson University College of Law Hall of Fame and former visiting professor at Stetson.