Highlights in News

Lionel Cuffie Award

CONGRATULATIONS to Mariah Brown for winning the Lionel Cuffie Award.

The Cuffie Award recognizes a graduating senior for service to LGBT communities on-campus and off-campus.  In addition to being a full-time student, RA, and Common Purpose Ambassador,  Mariah has most notably contributed to the LGBT community through her internship in the Dean of Students Office as a SafeZone Coordinator, President of Club 26 (formerly GSA), founder of RU-Camden's Samara Chapter of Mu Sigma Upsilon - the first multicultural sororiety in the nation, and participated in two video projects (check them out below).

First Diplomat for LGBT Rights

Secretary of State John Kerry, appoints Randy Berry in the newly created position of Diplomat for LGBT rights.  According to Kerry, "The issue is a 'strategic necessity' because greater protections for human rights lead to greater stability and prosperity." Berry has his work cut out for him balancing what Nigerian Catholic Bishop Emmanuel Badejo describes as U.S. and European  "cultural imperialism" against the broader goal of human rights.

Bruce Jenner's Special with Diane Sawyer

"Finally, perhaps the most important thing to note about Diane Sawyer’s Bruce Jenner interview is that his story is only one of many, and that those of us in the media have a duty to highlight the diversity of the trans experience. We need to cede the stage to -- and help shine a light on -- trans people themselves, particularly those of color and those facing the most marginalization with the least visibility and resources, whose voices are most often silenced. By doing so, we can help bring about new understanding and awareness of what it means to be transgender and reveal how diverse and beautiful those experiences can be, one powerful story at a time."

Finding LGBT-competent Doctors May Be Difficult, Study Shows

"LGBT people suffer from the same conditions as other people do, but their outcomes tend to be worse, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
Why do we need LGBT culturally competent doctors?  According to the Fenway Report, "First, there is a long history of anti-LGBT bias in healthcare which continues to shape health-seeking behavior and access to care for LGBT individuals, despite increasing social acceptance."  "Second, although there are no LGBT-specific diseases, clinicians must also be informed about LGBT health because of numerous health disparities which affect members of this population."

Close to home....Teaching LGBT Law for LGBT Community

Rutgers-Camden Assistant Law Professor Katie Eyer teaches Sexuality, Gender Identity, and the Law.  See why this course and Rutger's atmosphere motivated second year law student Ryann Aaron to choose Rutgers Law School.
See also how Ryann has become involved as President of OutLaws, the Law School organization for students, faculty and allies of the LGBTQ community.  He recently hosted a panel discussion on Policing in Marginalized Communities.


RFRA is nothing new and, at its inception, had nothing to do with LGBTQAI issues.  The Federal RFRA (42 US Code Section 2000bb 1-4) signed by Bill Clinton in 1993, with wide bi-partisan support, was a response to Employment Division v. Smith (494 U.S. 872). The law was intended to hold government accountable by requiring compelling justification by the least restrictive means when governments seek to substantially burden religious exercise .
In Smith, plaintiffs filed a suit alleging Oregon Employment Division wrongfully denied them unemployment benefits. Alfred Smith and Galen Black, ingested peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, for sacramental purposes at a ceremony of their Native American Church and were subsequently terminated from their jobs at a private drug rehabilitation center for work-related misconduct. Ultimately, the case rested on the courts interpretation of the Free Excersise Clause.    (Summary and audio of Justice Scalia's majority opinion)
Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, found no violation of the free exercise clause exists when a states law, is otherwise constitutional, and neutral (not specifically directed at [a particular] religion).  This case was a stark departure from precedents set in Sherbert (compelling interest standard) and Yoder (least restrictive means standard) (summary).
Following the Federal RFRA, City of Bourne v. Flores (73 F.3d 1352, reversed 1997held that Congress exceeded their power under the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 5. Therefore, states were not compelled to rely on the Federal RFRA. Subsequently, many states enacted their own versions of RFRA (although a number of states had enacted versions prior to this decision).
So why all the outrage now?   Hobby Lobby, Citizens United, widespread challenges to same-sex marriage, the recent flurry of law suits involving businesses attempting to deny services to people based on sexual orientation and most importantly the broad scope of Indiana's RFRA law. (see opinion article here) All of these things have culminated in the perfect storm.
Let the social justice and civil rights campaigns begin....kudos to all the individual and corporate allies in action taking a stand against potential threats to LGBTQAI civil rights...just to name a few
Angie's List
George Takei, Hillary Clinton, Audra McDonald, et al
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


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