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Sex, Gender, Expression and the First Amendment Project at VT Law

March 18, 2014

CONTACT: Peter Glenshaw, Director of Communications, Vermont Law School
Office: 802-831-1318, cell: 603-738-8487, home: 603-795-4764,

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., March 18, 2014—The rights to free expression, assembly and association as they relate to sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity will be highlighted during a series of events to include Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson, March 20-April 10, at Vermont Law School.

The weeks-long “Sex, Gender, Expression & the First Amendment Project” (SGE1) is sponsored by Alliance, a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight members of the law school community, and the VLS chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. SGE1 is slated to include art, film, panel discussions, and “Gayla,” a celebration of the historic art form of drag.

On April 2, Shumlin will speak about the importance of the SGE1 project. A Transgender Rights Panel led by GLAD attorney Jennifer Levi and VLS professor Greg Johnson will follow the governor's address. Johnson will explore issues faced by transgender service members in the military, while Levi will discuss how the First Amendment protects the right to dress in a way that is consistent with one’s gender identity, as well as litigation involving gender-nonconforming youth and the backlash they experienced at their schools.

“It’s been well over a decade since a Massachusetts court recognized that a transgender student has an expressive right in her gender identity,” Levi said of her upcoming talk at Vermont Law. “Huge legal and social changes have taken place since then, with greater visibility of and more express protections for transgender people’s lives.”

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson will present the keynote during the project’s final panel discussion, “Life After U.S. v. Windsor,” on April 10. Nearly a year after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy declared the federal definition of marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, the panel will discuss the impacts of the decision as well as the second prong of DOMA, which provides that individual states do not have to recognize and give full faith and credit to marriages of other states. Panelists include Vermont Law professor and Vice Dean Cheryl Hanna, state Rep. Bill Lippert, and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) counsel Kellie Fiedorek.

Panel discussions are free and open to the public and press.

Throughout the project, Evie Lovett’s “Backstage at the Rainbow Cattle Co.” exhibit will be displayed in Oakes Hall and at the Cornell Library on the VLS campus. Her work, which inspired the SGE1 project, offers a unique and highly personal portrait of drag queens in rural Vermont, and her subjects—from box store workers to nuclear power plant technicians—reveal the power of personal transformation.

“I went into the basement dressing room with a background in photographing people dressing up, with curiosity, without extensive knowledge of drag,” Lovett said of her inspiration for the exhibit. “Ultimately, I came to deeply respect these men, and one woman, for being in touch with who they are. Initially, I wondered what I’d have in common with a drag queen, but I emerged wishing I had more in common—more guts to explore a different facet of myself, to be courageous and outrageous, to write my own life story rather than follow a prescribed path that I feel I ‘should’ walk.”

Lovett will kick off the series during a reception at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20, in Yates Hall on the Vermont Law School campus.

For more information about “Sex, Gender, Expression & the First Amendment,” including registration and CLE credits, visit or email Taylor Curtis, event coordinator and co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild, at


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