June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place over the course of several hot summer nights in Greenwich Village, New York City. While this was not the first time gay men, lesbians and transgender people resisted state-sanctioned police harassment and brutality, the series of running battles are recognized by many as a watershed moment in modern LGBTQ+ civil rights history.
Taking inspiration from these brave freedom fighters, Tulsa and many other cities across the Unites States and the rest of the world celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride each June. One of the University of Tulsa community members joining in the festivities this year is recent TU College of Law alumnus Mitchell Lovett (JD ’19).
At home in the Heartland?
A veteran of the United States Army who served his country both at home and in Afghanistan, when Lovett was considering relocating from Washington, DC, to attend TU Law he was anxious about the potential for homophobic bias in Tulsa.
“As a gay male living in a progressive part of the country, I did not want to return to the kind of discrimination I had witnessed growing up in Georgia and as a service member at Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma,” Lovett said. “Although TU Law offered what I was looking for in a legal education (in particular, energy law), I was wary about reintroducing myself into an unhealthy environment.”
Like a good future lawyer, Lovett set about researching. His first step was to ask Professor Vicki Limas, with whom he had a pre-admission interview, “what kind of environment is Tulsa for the LGBTQ+ and minority communities? Is it a place where I’m going to have to watch my back or get slurs yelled at me in the streets?” Limas assured Lovett that Tulsa is a safe city and that he need not worry about being harassed.
Becoming an OutLaw
Limas then put Lovett in touch with Preston Brasch, who was one of the leaders of OutLaws – the student organization at TU Law dedicated to addressing lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender legal issues. “Preston was welcoming and reassured me I was walking into a phenomenal place. He also told me about OutLaws and how I could become a member.”
“OutLaws is a group of friendly students who want to advocate for, spread awareness of and be mindful of the LGBTQ+ community in Tulsa and the College of Law,” Lovett explained. The organization has a president, vice president, secretary, media manager and treasurer. Throughout the year it engages in various events, including fundraising for the Matthew Shepard Foundation; bringing in guest speakers on topics such as employment discrimination and litigation affecting the trans community; and sending students to diversity conferences. “OutLaws provides a space in the College of Law for the LGBTQ+ community to flourish.”
In his first year, Lovett took part in OutLaws events, attending fundraisers, mixers and panels. As a 2L, he stepped up and became the group’s treasurer. And then in his final year of studies Lovett returned to being an active member-participant.
“You don’t normally think of your university as your safety net,” Lovett concluded near the end of our conversation. “But that was immediate at the College of Law. For someone who up and moved across the country to come to TU it was wonderful when members of OutLaws met me the first week, went with me to dinner and helped me move in. And I’ve done the same for other new members.
“You can’t ignore how important that sense of community is. Anyone who is LGBTQ+ who is facing trepidation about whether to come to TU Law should push that aside, because there’s a great community here for us.”
Interested in LGBTQ+ legal issues and meeting other people with similar investments? Then consider getting involved in OutLaws and attending the group’s events.
Membership is open to all TU Law students and alumni, regardless of gender and sexuality. Allies who support the LGBTQ+ community are warmly welcomed.