Dear Members of the Duke Law Community,

We write to you disappointed and frustrated with the Duke Law Federalist Society’s decision to invite Helen Alvaré to Duke Law on October 26th. Professor Alvaré has called same-sex marriage “a horrid natural experiment in our country,” is a regular speaker at pro-conversion therapy events, and has called the decriminalization of homosexuality a mistake. She is affiliated with numerous anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups and regularly engages in what the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as hate speech, including in the book she intends to promote at Duke.

We are equally frustrated with the response of Dean Abrams and the Duke Law administration to our concerns. In her response, she explained that while she might personally oppose Alvaré, as Dean she would not oppose Alvaré’s harmful rhetoric. Last year, Dean Abrams acknowledged the harm caused by the Westboro Baptist Church, and took steps to ensure they would not be allowed on campus. But when hate comes with a law degree and Federalist Society sponsorship, it becomes more palatable to the administration.

To our classmates in the Federalist Society: know that we will remember you decided our civil liberties were up for debate. We will remember that you wanted to hear from those who would criminalize our very existence. To be clear, Alvaré’s views are so far removed from civility that even those who claim a “religious” opposition to marriage equality or LGBTQ+ rights do not support her position. Your professional and personal identities are forever stained by these hateful views and the harm you have caused to our community.

To Dean Abrams and the Duke Law administration: we are hurt by your failure to recognize us and the harm caused by Alvaré’s hate speech. This echoes the same marginalization that is so often directed at LGBTQ+ individuals. It is important to note that hostility to LGBTQ+ individuals is not new at Duke Law. Previous Federalist Society speakers have advocated for discrimination against LGBTQ+ people by private businesses, have deliberately misgendered trans attorneys, and have opposed our rights generally. Duke Law also routinely promotes scholarship that directly opposes the rights of transgender and intersex women worldwide.

If we cannot be assured that our school will defend our humanity, then how can we call the administration an ally to us? When prospective students ask us about our experiences at Duke, we will have to be honest with them about the environment they will encounter here. We recognize the efforts of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the Office of Diversity Initiatives to try to make this school a more inclusive and welcoming place for LGBTQ+ students. But we will continue to fight to ensure future Duke Law students will not face the same indifference from their peers and the administration.

Thank you to our allies in this community for your solidarity and support! We hope for a better, more welcoming, and more supportive environment for us and for all members of this profession. Duke OutLaw will continue to work towards that goal.


Duke OutLaw