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IN THE MAIL: Law Review takes narrow, appalling view

FARGO -- Attorneys around the state were shocked to see the content of the most recent edition of the North Dakota Law Review, a symposium issue focused on family law, in which all but one of seven pieces attacks same-sex marriage.

FARGO -- Attorneys around the state were shocked to see the content of the most recent edition of the North Dakota Law Review, a symposium issue focused on family law, in which all but one of seven pieces attacks same-sex marriage.

Before entering a moral debate, let's clarify that same-sex marriage isn't exactly the issue here. The problem is a scholarly legal journal filling an entire publication with one side of an argument. Not to mention the dubious level of scholarship contained therein.

To see our state's only legal journal dominated by narrow, ultraconservative viewpoints is one thing. To see it absent of any opposing viewpoint whatsoever is appalling. And to see it absent of diligent, true scholarship is frankly disappointing.

Paul LeBel, the dean of UND's School of Law, quickly issued a statement attempting, in the words of one dissenting attorney, "to minimize the offending conduct, to offer excuses and justifications for it and to mute criticism of it." LeBel's statement also assured readers that the "University and the School of Law are welcoming and inclusive educational communities."

Some attorneys have suggested everyone sending back the issue and requesting a refund. Others have suggested publishing an alternative journal with the opposing viewpoints. UND School of Law, it seems, would simply like to wait for this to go away.

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Regarding the journal itself, it's not my place to say. That falls on the shoulders of the North Dakota Law Review's staff and publisher (UND School of Law) and to its primary subscribers and readers (the legal community concerned with family). As a citizen and advocate, I will offer a few suggestions.

To every concerned attorney in North Dakota: Do not let this pass. Organize, discuss dissent and demand this be addressed. The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition would be happy to facilitate a statewide discussion.

To the North Dakota Law Review staff: Listen to your attorneys in field, re-establish the integrity of your scholarship, and address issues that actually have some substance in your own state. To publish this homophobic screed in a state where same-sex marriage is constitutionally banned is ridiculous at best, malicious more likely.

Barring extremely unlikely federal legislation, same-sex marriage is off the table in North Dakota for another three years (at which point the ban could be challenged). GLBT folks and advocates in North Dakota are less concerned with marriage and more concerned with the fact they can legally be denied employment, housing, credit transactions and use of public accommodations without legal recourse. Perhaps, your next publication can address issues such as this -- issues with real relevance.

To Dean LeBel and UND: Prove what you claim. Put action behind your words, and show us that your institution is indeed a welcoming and inclusive one. Approach this as an opportunity, rather than a problem.

North Dakota's 2009 legislative session will see legislation to amend the North Dakota Human Rights and Fair Housing Acts to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This discrimination won't stop until we address its source through systemic change.

Dean LeBel, consider this your formal invitation to support that legislation. Attorneys, your support is welcome, encouraged and needed, too. We're bringing the issue to the table. Join us.

Marr is executive director of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.

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