Saturday, June 23

UCLA School of Law introduces new specialization in gender identity

The UCLA School of Law plans to open a new specialization in sexuality and law ““ the first of its kind in the country ““ starting next fall.

The program is designed for students who are interested in pursuing a career in sexual orientation and gender identity law, said Lara Stemple, the director of graduate studies at the UCLA School of Law, who will teach classes offered in the specialization.

The program will include a course on law and sexuality, as well as workshops and other classes focused on international law and sexual issues that are already offered by the law school. The specialization will be offered to both U.S. and international students that have obtained a basic law degree.

Stemple, who is currently teaching a core class that will be offered in the specialization on human rights and sex politics, said she has noticed that more students are interested in taking classes that will now be part of the new specialization.

Students within the specialization will have the opportunity to work intensively with the Williams Institute, a think tank in the law school that already focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity law, Stemple said.

While there have been progressive movements in some parts of the world concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, there are still many parts of the world that are unsafe and inhospitable for LGBT people, said Brad Sears, the executive director of the Williams Institute. The program was created partly to allow students from all over the world interested in LGBT rights to return to these countries to advocate for LGBT rights, he added.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring students from around to the world to explore legislature on sexuality for them to get that one-of-a-kind UCLA education and to go back home to their countries to do work for sexual minorities,” Sears said.

The Williams Institute will work closely with law school administrators to oversee and to teach classes within the new specialization, Sears said.

Admitted students will be able to work with the think tank in addition to the coursework they will take in the program, Stemple said. With the Williams Institute, students will participate in a range of programs, from taking classes taught by fellows to participating projects within the think tank as well as attending events they put on.

Some current law students, like second-year law student Jessica Eby, said they understand the value of a such a program in place within the law school, and the purpose it will serve in society.

“I think it’s a great program, it’s important for people to consider how things like gender, sexual orientation, race and class are treated by law,” Eby said. “Those are important parts of peoples identities that shape the way they experience the law,” she said.

The specialization is currently accepting applications and will begin in August 2013.

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