Christopher Barron (’00) speaks about diversity and inclusion at 2015 OUTLaw Inaugural Advocacy and Awareness Dinner

Group photo of Stephen Frost ('15) and Christopher Barron ('00) at Advocacy and Awareness Dinner

Stephen Frost ('15) and Christopher Barron (00)

OUTLaw, the organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied law students at Wake Forest Law, held its Inaugural Advocacy and Awareness Dinner on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at The Millennium Center in downtown Winston-Salem as a fundraising event for the group featuring keynote speaker Christopher Barron (’00), Strategic Communications Consultant at McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies and founder of GOProud. 

Welcome remarks were given by Joseph Greener (’16), OUTLaw Advocacy and Awareness Fund Chairperson, and Liz Vennum (’15), OUTLaw Pro Bono and Community Outreach Chairperson, gave the introduction of the keynote speaker.

“This has been a big year for OUTLaw and the Wake Forest Law LGBTQ Community. Thanks to our presidents Stephen Frost (’15) and McKinney Brown (’15), OUTLaw has had its most productive year yet. Our members have logged over 266 pro bono hours over the last two years at various organizations —OUTLaw members have also spent their summers working on projects important to the LGBTQ community, such as the Campaign for Southern Equality and the ACLU, which is helping the LGBTQ community expand, all working towards creating a more inclusive environment,” said Greener. “A person we would like to thank is Dean Reynolds. She is highly respected for her scholarship and teaching and her public service and is a passionate advocate for the LGBTQ community at large. She was instrumental in the success of tonight’s event.”

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Interim Dean Suzanne Reynolds said of Barron, having taught him at Wake Forest Law, “You could not have a better speaker for your inaugural event than Chris Barron…You have a rock star for your inaugural speaker. When he was a law student, he was a rock star even then.”

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She recalled that Barron was in her family law class in 1999 and told about a day discussing same-sex marriage and dealing with tedious arguments, and that “Barron pulled a baseball cap from his book-bag with interlocking rings on it, and it just injected some humanity into the discussion about what these tedious arguments mean to the lives of so many people.”

Barron spoke to the attendees of students, faculty, staff and community attendees about his experiences at Wake Forest Law with hindsight, humor and seriousness citing how much has changed for the better, and how fast things have moved in the areas of progress for LGTBQ saying it is the fastest civil rights movement of all time.

“Same-sex marriage was a theoretical discussion when I was in law school. Civil unions was the crazy idea that was being tried out in leftist Vermont,” said Barron.

Barron also shared a personal story from his days at law school in 1998, the day after Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyo. “The day after Matt Shepard died…I found a stack of papers, anti-gay literature, stuffed in my mailbox.”

Barron approached the Wake Forest ACLU and then made a display of the literature, along with his own open letter to the anonymous person that left the papers in his mailbox, on the first floor of the law school. “I knew that person walked by it every day.”

Barron gave kudos to the OUTLaw student group on their continuing building awareness and progress for the LGBTQ community and being such a strong student organization.

“The truth is, LGBT people are everywhere. We’re the strangest community because, in a sense, we’re not actually a community, because we’re every demographic. We’re every race; We’re every background. We’re in every part of this country,” said Barron.

In conclusion, Barron said, “It’s important to remember that diversity should include ideological diversity and that inclusion should be inclusion for everyone.”

Professor J. Wilson Parker, OUTLaw Advisor, gave closing remarks.

The event included a raffle for dozens of donated prizes to raise money for OUTLaw. This money is used throughout the year to fund speakers, panels, social events, political action and other activities that educate the law school community about LGBTQ issues and promote the legal equality of LGBTQ individuals. The first project OUTLaw intends to implement is an annual summer grant for a law student to work with an LGBTQ public interest organization. Although there have been many victories for the LGBTQ communities over the past year in the legal world, less than three percent of attorneys identify as LGBTQ individuals.

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About Wake Forest OUTLaw: Throughout the year, OUTLaw sponsors speakers, panels, activities, social events, and political actions. We seek to foster discussion about legal issues relating to LGBTQ individuals, promote the legal equality of LGBTQ individuals, and educate the law school community. Our commitment is to building a larger, stronger LGBTQ student population at Wake Forest Law.

Visit the Wake Forest OUTLaw Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/WFUOutlaw

View photos of the event on Flickr.