By Julia Guerrein, News Editor
Students, faculty, and staff from Vermont Law School and other community members joined VLS Alliance at Burlington’s Main Street Landing to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots with a series of talks about LGBTQ+ civil rights and the law.
The Nov. 16 symposium, titled “Stonewall at 50: A Half-Century of LGBT+ Civil Rights Advocacy,” covered a wide range of topics, including how the courts are addressing these rights and the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. The event also featured distinguished speakers and panelists, including Justice Beth Robinson of the Vermont Supreme Court.
On June 28, 1969, a police raid on a Manhattan gay bar called the Stonewall Inn sparked a riot and subsequent protests. The so-called Stonewall uprising helped organize activist groups to advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals’ rights and acceptance within society.
The conference included three panels discussing the legal, political, and personal aspects of the fight for equality, along with standalone speakers.
“We really wanted to create something that was intersectional and captured the whole essence and significance and what it meant to the movement, but also acknowledging that there is still a ways to go in terms of progressing,” Alliance co-chair Sara Gaylon told The Forum.
State Rep. Bill Lippert participated in several of the panels and offered his perspective as the only openly gay member of the Vermont Legislature.
Lippert said persistence is key to fighting for rights, and that being in the room—even with people who disagree—is better than not being part of the discussion at all.
Molly Gray, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights at VLS, echoed this sentiment while briefing attendees on the state of LGBTQ+ rights around the world.
“We need to be at the table,” Gray said.
Justice Robinson, who has sat on the state’s highest court since 2011, delivered the keynote address. An openly lesbian woman, Robinson discussed her work before becoming a judge, which focused on representing numerous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender clients with issues that affected their families, employment, estate planning, and more.
Most notably, Robinson and her law partner represented three plaintiff couples seeking the right to marry in Vermont in Baker v. State of Vermont. She also co-founded and led the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force for over 15 years.
“We stand on the shoulders of thousands of Vermonters and those across the country who one step at a time make it happen,” Robinson said in her address.
Stonewall is important to the LGBTQ+ movement, and the conference helped Alliance reach more people within the community, including speakers, panelists, and attendees.
“I think it was a really great step for Alliance at VLS as a group because it really expanded our connections,” Gaylon said.
Stonewall at 50 took a look at the past, offered an assessment of the present, and also gave those involved a glimpse into the future of LGBTQ+ rights.