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Jeff Dodge moved across the country last week from San Diego to New York, and he packed with him a combination of experiences that has captured the attention of some forward thinkers at Hofstra University School of Law. One of three students to receive scholarships under Hofstra’s newly created Fellowships for Advocacy for the Equality of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People, Dodge, 22, will begin his first year on the Hempstead campus about $25,000 ahead of the game. As a recipient of a fellowship that provides a $20,000 tuition grant and a $5,000 stipend each summer, he has pledged a commitment to advocacy for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It is a commitment that comes at a time of great change, he said last week while taking a break from packing for his move from sunny San Diego to the city of steam. “I’ve been in a bubble here in southern California,” he said in a telephone interview, referring to college life in a West Coast community, “but I definitely feel we’re in the midst of the LGBT movement.” Hofstra announced the creation of the Fellowships for Advocacy for the Equality of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in February. The awards were created, in part, as a response to the university’s decision a few years ago to allow the armed forces to recruit on campus and an ROTC program to remain, despite objections by some faculty and students that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is discriminatory to vocal members of the LGBT community. Hofstra law school lecturer James Garland, who helped establish the school’s fellowship program, said the university was seeking a way to demonstrate its commitment to nondiscrimination and to the military at the same time. “The university has been cautious about criticizing the military, but there is still a real concern [about LGBT discrimination],” explained Garland, who said he knows of no other law school fellowship program specifically geared toward advocacy for this group. Although Garland said that his school has a “great record” of fostering LGBT rights, some assert that Hofstra’s program exemplifies an uneven balance of liberal thinkers in law schools nationwide. Eight out of 10 law school faculty members are liberal, estimated Eugene B. Meyer, president of The Federalist Society, a conservative legal organization based in Washington, D.C. Asserting a membership of 20,000 legal professionals and 5,000 law school students, The Federalist Society states that it is “interested in the current state of legal order and traditional values.” Although Meyer declined to comment specifically on Hofstra’s program, he said that an unbalanced liberal influence in law schools does a disservice to their students. “If you’re training students for the world, they need a wider range of intellectual and philosophical views,” he said. That wider range, he explained, should include more conservative professors and programs. Hofstra’s program will enable Dodge to work the summers between law school semesters with advocacy groups such as Lambda Legal, a nonprofit organization based in New York, and the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of New York. Although he recognizes that his goals after graduation are subject to change, he is interested in alternative dispute resolution with a continued commitment to LGBT issues through pro bono work. “I’ve got to make a living,” he said. PUBLIC AWARENESS The first year of Hofstra’s program coincides with a recent increase in public awareness of LGBT social and legal issues, say Dodge and Garland. Within the last few weeks, matters involving same-sex civil unions, gay clergy and gay culture and style have grabbed headlines with heightened frequency. But a “huge statement for the LGBT community,” Dodge said, was the June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, which, by a 6-3 majority, struck down a Texas same-sex sodomy law on due process grounds. The ruling was seen by many as a loud declaration of the rights and status of gays in American society. Even so, much work remains, LGBT advocates say. “The real question is what is going to happen on the legislative level,” Garland said. “We’re concerned about a legislative backlash against the LGBT community.” But, he continued, “People are speaking out more.” It is more than a future interest in LGBT issues that earned the fellowship for Dodge, and the other two recipients at Hofstra, Jaime Piazza and Krista Smokowski. Each student must also demonstrate past experience in LGBT advocacy. Dodge, for example, was president of the student government association at the University of California at San Diego, where he earned his undergraduate degree. In that role, he worked to establish an alliance program to bridge the LGBT community with other student groups on campus. He said that other LGBT organizations had existed prior to the alliance program, but he was not satisfied with their focus. “I continued to not fully identify with student organizations that dealt with the social stuff, like dances,” he said. “As boring as it sounds, I wanted to be sitting in meetings and lobbying for issues that mattered.” In addition to the scholars and stipends, the program provides students with the opportunity for course work in Sexuality and the Law, taught by Garland, in addition to Sex Discrimination and Jurisprudence. Independent study and tutorials also are available. The school continues to seek funding for the fellowships, Garland said.

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