Grade: F

Anti-Gay Sen. McConnell Won’t Be Welcomed at Univ. of Louisville Graduation


Sometimes when politicians stop by graduations, things go swimmingly. When President George W. Bush attended the Air Force Academy’s graduation, he was embraced with chest bumps. But when he delivered the commencement address at Furman University, faculty protested; at Ohio State’s commencement, students turned their backs. When President Obama stopped by Notre Dame, there was a push to have pro-lifers turn their backs. Tomorrow, the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law will deliver diplomas to law school graduates. And when Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers his speech? Expect to see a sea of buttons.

Several graduates, one student tells Queerty, will be wearing the buttons to protest McConnell’s appearance at the school. McConnell voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, they argue, so what business does he have speaking at a law school when he so willingly trampled on the U.S. Constitution? (Nevermind McConnell’s otherwise anti-gay voting record, which includes voting against protecting gays under hate crimes laws and voting in support of amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. His HRC score is zero.)


The buttons, worn on the graduates’ robes, will read “Sen. McConnell Does Not Speak For Me.”

They will not, however, include the subhead, “But on another note, when are you going to come out?” Because, like, really.

From the Facebook Group:

According to U of L’s site, the Law School’s Convocation will begin at 4:30 p.m. Graduates who are mostly “with us” will be arriving at Brown Theater by 3:30 p.m. It normally lasts about 90 minutes so the protest will be finishing up by 7pm.

Out of respect for the graduates, protesting inside the theater during the ceremony, which the students themselves planned, is discouraged. It is a special day for them and this event is not meant to distract from that in any way.

Below, read the letter students sent to Sen. McConnell’s office and the media.

Dear Sen. McConnell,

As a few of the members of the Brandeis School of Law Class of 2009, we welcome you to our commencement. We know you don’t get to Louisville often, and certainly it is quite a feather in the cap of our school to secure the speaking services of one of the most powerful political leaders in the country. We have spent the past three years discussing at length, among other things, the civil rights and liberties granted by our Constitution. It is on those subjects we feel secure in telling you that when you are speaking at our graduation, you do not speak for us.

There is a phrase we hear often in law school when a professor wants to move on from a classroom debate: “Reasonable people can disagree.” But the fact is, there are some things that are absolutely unreasonable. The idea that some of us can be fired from a job because of who they love? That is unreasonable. Tapping the phones of U.S. citizens without judicial oversight is unreasonable. That immigrants are demonized for our nation’s problems is unreasonable. Your position on such basic issues is unreasonable.

The fact that you have vehemently and repeatedly opposed equality in any way shape or form for many of our citizens is unacceptable in this nation. It has nothing to do with partisanship, and everything to do with our rights as citizens and as human beings. There are Republicans who believe in civil rights, and quite a few Democrats who do not. Were it, for example, our current lieutenant governor speaking at graduation, we would be just as upset. There are things about which it is time for people to stop agreeing to disagree and to start calling what it is: prejudice.

Graduation day is going to be a day of celebration for our classmates, our families, and our friends. We have all worked hard, and regardless of our political persuasion, we deserve to have this day to enjoy free of disruption and disorder. However, we will not sit silently on a stage listening to someone who has time and again acted to prevent some of our classmates, and indeed community members, from achieving equality under the eyes of the law. We will each be wearing a button on our graduation robes to register our dissent. You may speak for a bare majority of Kentuckians right now, but you do not speak for us, nor do you speak for the future of where our state or country is headed.

The sign outside the school says Brandeis School of Law, not School of Justice or School of Fair. Certainly the law is not always just or fair. Still, it seems to us that justice is what the country has been moving toward in the law since our humble beginnings. On the day of our law school convocation, as law students and future attorneys, it is up to us to stand for justice and equality. Every time a law has been challenged to bring justice for someone who was previously not allowed full participation in society, it made us a better country. Sen. McConnell, you are on the wrong side of history here, for LGBT people, for women, for immigrants, for the poor, and for people who honor peace and civil liberties.

Our school’s namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, said, “America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.” The day is coming, sooner than you can imagine, when it will be unthinkable for a school to invite someone who does not believe in equality to speak at a commencement. When that day comes, it will also be unimaginable that someone who works against the full rights and liberties of all Americans could ever speak for the citizens of the Commonwealth. Until that day comes, know that you do not speak for us.

Christopher McDavid

Rebecca O’Neill

Lucie Small

University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

Class of 2009