Teaching LGBT Law for LGBT Community


When Ryann Aaron was researching where to study law, a top factor was each school’s LGBT atmosphere. Through research, he knew that Rutgers has LGBT faculty, offers LGBT courses, and is home to an active LGBT student organization.

This semester, Aaron, now in his second year of law school and current president of OUTLaws, which advocates on campus and in the region for LGBT issues, will begin the course Sexuality, Gender Identity, and the Law.

Taught by Katie Eyer, an assistant professor of law and a former LGBT rights litigator, the course, now in its second year as an offering, focuses on contemporary legal issues in LGBT rights, such as same-sex marriage recognition, employment discrimination, the rights of LGBT students, and LGBT parents’ rights.

According to Eyer, this course was important for the law school to offer and was driven in part by student interest.

“As a new professor here, a number of students had sought me out because of my background about whether such a course could be offered,” she recalls. “I agreed that it was an important one for Rutgers to offer, and it’s fulfilling as an educator and a former litigator in this area to see students excited to go out in the world and do this kind of work.”

Students like Aaron, who have taken classes with Eyer before, are not only eager to return to Eyer’s classroom, but to learn about legal issues facing a community they represent.

“As a member of the LGBT community I think this class will be extremely enlightening and educational,” says Aaron. “I imagine I will learn much about my community’s culture and legal history as well as current issues that give rise to complications in LGBT rights.”

It’s not just Eyer’s excellent teaching that attracts student interest, but her scholarship and former litigation life before coming to Rutgers in 2012. As a litigator, Eyer focused her employment discrimination practice significantly on LGBT rights issues, and secured a major precedent protecting gay employees under federal sex discrimination law, Powel v. Wise Business Forms. As an anti-discrimination law scholar, Eyer’s work has continued to focus on LGBT rights issues, although she also writes on race, disability, and an array of other anti-discrimination issues. The Rutgers Law–Camden legal scholar’s work has been published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, and the UC Davis Law Review. One recent publication, “Constitutional Colorblindness and the Family,” was awarded honorable mention in the 2013 AALS Scholarly Papers Competition.

“My background as a litigator informs my teaching and mentoring in a positive way,” Eyer says. “In all my classes I try to show what things look like on the ground.” She also teaches her class in a balanced way, because, she says, “it doesn’t do favors to anyone to not to be aware of the counter arguments someone on the other side could make.”

Courses like Eyer’s enrich the legal education of law students like Aaron and other LGBT students, who are aspiring attorneys and passionate advocates.

“My background has caused me to be passionate about promoting and advocating for LGBT issues. This passion has grown from a desire to educate our society and reduce ignorance regarding gay-rights and other causes.”

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