Gonzaga University’s School of Law has added an LGBTQ+ clinic to its Center for Civil and Human Rights, supported by Joe Lincoln, alumnus and Regent of GU. It was announced Feb. 14.
Each clinic within the Center for Civil and Human Rights is designed to address legal issues relating to civil and human rights. The LGBTQ+ clinic will have a close partnership with the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center.
“The clinic will be tied to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which has been open for three years now,” said Jacob Rooksby, dean of GU School of Law. “It has served as a platform for social justice and action broadly conceived. We were one of the first law schools in the country to do something like this.”
The clinic will allow a certain number of law students to work with a law professional to solve local legal conflicts in order to give second-year and third-year law students an opportunity to learn skills combined with real-world experience.
“Most clinics enroll five to eight students and they function year round,” Rooksby said. “Student interest exacts the number of spots available. Our most recent clinic was on immigration and we started it with only four spots, and the next year, there were eight spots.”
According to the GU News Service news release of the launch, students who participate in the Lincoln LGBTQ+ rights clinic will “offer legal services to members of the public with the help of second- and third-year law students, under the direction of a full-time faculty member. Potential areas include assistance with updating government identification cards, family law issues, domestic violence concerns and discrimination suits in housing, employment and public services. Students will have the opportunity to handle all phases of representation, including interviewing and counseling clients, fact-finding, brief writing and appearing in court hearings on behalf of clients.”
While the clinic’s purpose and functions have already been mapped out, the School of Law still has one component to figure out before before the clinic can officially launch: find someone to oversee it.
“For the past couple months, we have have been looking for who to hire as the director of the clinic,” Rooksby said. “The most important thing to us is that we put someone in front of the student who is protective of law. Ideally, they would do this type of work already or it is an area of interest for them.”
According to the news release, GU School of Law will be the first university in Washington state and in the Inland Northwest, and will be joining universities like Harvard, Cornell, Emory and University of California Los Angeles in creating a clinic entirely devoted to helping those who are marginalized and underserved because of their gender identity.
However, not everyone is that excited about the advent of this clinic. The Most Rev. Thomas Daly, Bishop of Spokane for the Catholic Church, released a statement of concern on Feb. 19.
“While the Catholic tradition does uphold the dignity of every human being, the LGBT Rights law clinic’s scope of practice could bring the GU Law School into conflict with the religious freedom of Christian individuals and organizations,” Daly said in his online statement. “There is also a concern that Gonzaga Law School will be actively promoting, in the legal arena and on campus, values that are contrary to the Catholic faith and Natural Law.”
Daly ended his statement lamenting the fact the diocese was not consulted before news of this clinic was released.
After publishing his statement, he posted an update to this statement saying GU President Thayne McCulloh had invited him to have a conversation about the clinic’s scope and focus.
The Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic is set to have a director within the next few months and should be fully operational by the 2020-21 academic year.