Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Guest Speaker Lawrence Friedman 

Yesterday the NESL Outlaws (NESL's GLBT organization) hosted a presentation and discussion by Prof. Lawrence Friedman, who is currently a visiting faculty member at Boston College Law and who is joining the NESL faculty in the fall.

The official description was: "This informative and lively program will focus on constitutional issues raised by cases such as Lawrence v. Texas, Baker v. State and Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, and the intersection of state and federal law pertaining to the issues of same-sex marriage and individual liberties."

It indeed was both informative and lively, and Prof. Friedman took us through a history of the evolving relationship between state constitutions and the US constitution, the history of individual liberties and protections through two threads of criminal and civil cases, and the various strategies and rationales presented by the parties and judges/justices involved in many decisions. About half of the hour was dedicated to Q&A, and he successfully fielded questions to a range of issues.

I posted recently on an open forum on same sex marriage, and stated that the anti-gay marriage speaker did not present any legal arguments but instead relied on emotional and religous statements to support his case. One of the students at yesterday's discussion asked Professor Friedman if he could possibly explain to us exactly what some of the legal arguments are that are used by the anti-gay marriage advocates. He confirmed our suspicions with his response that it is often difficult to pin them down on what exactly is the legal basis for their arguments. He further mentioned that this is one reason they often turn to constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage. Such an amendment would remove the need to support the position with convincing legal arguments.

Prof. Friedman will be teaching Civil Procedure and Constitutional Law next year, but not in the evening division. I would enjoy taking a course from him, so I'll just have to hope that in the future he'll be teaching some electives.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:27 PM