Outlaw Celebrates 30 Years of Acceptance
According to Frank Mockler (‘81), it was as though the Boston legal community saw a switch flipped in 1978. As the U.S. Supreme Court reached its landmark decision validating the constitutionality of affirmative action programs in the University of California v. Bakke, BU Law formed its own first LGBT group. “I was present at the dawn of a new era of tolerance,” said Mockler.
“For whatever reason, there were a number of gay and lesbian students in my class, a critical mass, and it made it possible to organize a group. There were a few 2Ls and maybe a 3L or two, but most of the initial group were 1Ls like myself,” Mockler recalled. “We came up with the name BUGALLA— Boston University Gay and Lesbian Legal Association.”
BUGALLA’s formation coincided with the creation of COGLLI (the Committee on Gay & Lesbian Legal Issues) at Harvard Law and an already present gay and lesbian group formed by BU undergraduates, Mockler and his classmates did not seek to create any more waves by making BUGALLA an official school group. “We weren’t a secret, but we certainly managed to stay under the radar. There were no elected officials and while our meetings were casual and irregular, it served as an effective support group for us,” stated Mockler.
Despite the changing scene in the Boston legal community, the majority of the general population was still of the mindset that to be “out” was tantamount to being unemployed. BUGALLA, along with several working alumni in the area, worked to make
BU Law alumnus John Ward (’76), was making his own mark on the Boston gay legal community defending men arrested in what were deemed “homosexually active” areas. He went on to found GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) and joined several members of COGLLI to form the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association (MLGBA) which is still active today. When Mockler and his co-founders brought Ward to speak at one of BUGALLA’s early meetings, they were denied the right to a meeting space because they weren’t an administratively-recognized
Today, BUGALLA has morphed into OutLaw, and BU Law’s dedication to ensuring safety and acceptance for all students is clear. “We have a very supportive administration,” said Chris Valente, co-chair of OutLaw. “There’s never really been a question about whether we’re accepted on campus.”
Just as Mockler observed 30 years before, Valente is quick to note that Boston’s environment of acceptance may not be the norm across the country. “We’re in very much of a comfort zone here in Boston, but that doesn’t mean that there are not issues facing LGBT people here in Massachusetts and around the United States,” said Valente.
“What OutLaw tries to do is focus on how we can be instruments of change. We try to better our community, whether it’s through the panels that we host or the volunteer work that I know many of our members do and by going out there and being lawyers who are involved in the community,” said Valente. “This group has always been focused on how we can contribute positively to the things that make a difference to us as a community.”
“OutLaw and groups like it have made the legal profession aware that it not only needs to tolerate the LGBT community, but it should embrace those organizations and their causes,” said Mockler. “It is not so long ago that there were no LGBT anti-discrimination policies. That has all changed, largely as a result of the presence and hard work of organizations such as this.”