VCU LGBTQ History Month: Panel to speak on VCU’s famed 1974 Gay Alliance of Students lawsuit
While its hard it ignore modern modern LGBTQ activism on Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus these days, the movement has more roots at VCU than many think – thanks to a legal battle there in the early 70s , LGBTQ activism groups got their first foothold in public university campuses.
To help honor that legacy and kick off their LGBTQ history month, VCU is launching a Humanities Research Center’s Fall 2016 Speaker Series.
The court case Gay Alliance of Students v. T Matthews was such a pivotal stepping stone in LGBTQ history and it all started here in Richmond. On Sept. 1, 1974 the university’s first student gay group, Gay Alliance of Students (GAS) formed and applied for formal registration and recognition through the university.
The purpose of this group was to develop a supportive community among individuals who believed in the right of self-determination with regard to sexual orientation. The application was submitted to VCU’s Office of the Dean of Student Affairs which was then (unusually) forwarded to the Board of Visitors at VCU.
Eventually the application was denied for what they believed to be the controversial nature of the organization.
GAS was the only application forwarded to the Board of Visitors as well as the only one rejected out of the 93 student organizations that year.
With courage and bravery, the student group refused to accept this decision and followed through with a lawsuit against the university officials involved. This initiated a two-year legal process from 1974-1976 that eventually led to the formal acceptance of the GAS at VCU thanks to an order from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision not only applied to VCU, but to all colleges and universities across Virginia and every other state within the court’s jurisdiction, including Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
It is no surprise why VCU would share the 40th anniversary of this monumental decision that paved the way for the journey of inclusion for LGBTQ folks on campus.
The series will start next week and include three events within the month that are all fashioned towards telling the story and experiences of this case as well as highlighting the progress and the continued fight of the LGBTQ community.
On Oct. 4th at noon at the Cabell Library Lecture Hall, 901 Park Avenue, VCU will host a panel discussion with two alumni who will share their story of their involvement in this group and student activism at the time and then the lawsuit.
“I think when talking about civil rights issues and social justice issues it’s helpful to talk in personal terms because these are not abstract issues, these are issues about flesh and blood human beings. And their individual stories are very powerful” Said Dr. Richard Godbeer, Director of the Humanities Research Center at VCU.
“Our objective in staging this speaker series is to celebrate the courage and bravery of those students and that milestone on the journey that we still are all on together,” said Godbeer. “Also, to make sure that the community at VCU and beyond is informed about the history of the LGBTQ movement and more broadly the journey toward inclusion and acceptance for everyone.”
This series will inform and recognize the progress made since then but will also will recognize the journey is far from over. “We can’t understand our present and plan effectively for the future without knowing where we came from” said Godbeer.
The series’ second event features speaker Dr. Marc Stein on October 13th at 4:00 p.m. who will speak about student activism and specifically LGBTQ issues in the 1970′s.
The final event, which includes a keynote address by tennis superstar and LGBTQ/Feminist activist Billy Jean King, happens on October 27th at 6:00 p.m. at the Siegel Center. Admission is free and all are welcome. You can find more information about the series here.
This month, VCU’S College of Humanities and Sciences is hosting a speakers series titled, “Celebrating Forty Years of LGBTQ Activism” to commemorate the court decision that allowed for VCU’s first queer student organization to exist on campus. This Thursday, Dr. Marc Stein of San Francisco State University, will give the second lecture in the series [...]October 11, 2016
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