LGBTQ+ History Month was established to celebrate the achievements and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community and reflect on the challenges they have overcome and the work that remains.
In this spirit, Iowa Law is highlighting Outlaws, a student organization that started almost 35 years ago at the College of Law and nationally, formally known as Lavender Law. This student organization plays an important role in supporting LGBTQ+ students and allies, both within the academic sphere and the broader community.
Outlaws describe their group as a sanctuary of acceptance, a catalyst for change, and a beacon of hope for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies within the law school. Through its various initiatives and activities, the student organization creates a nurturing environment where members can seek solace, forge connections, and engage in meaningful dialogue.
“I think one of the biggest impacts of Outlaws was creating a sense of community for LGBTQ+ students in the law school. Outlaws offers empowerment, group voices, and ensures that Iowa Law is an open, welcoming, and hospitable place for queer people,” said Jonathan Molony (22JD), former Outlaws president.
One of its core features is the weekly informal meetings, providing a space for individuals to share their experiences, challenges, and triumphs. These gatherings serve as a reminder that while the legal field may present its own unique obstacles, there exists a network of support to help navigate those challenges.
Beyond casual interactions, Outlaws has established a structured mentorship program that bridges the gap between seasoned law students and newcomers. First-year students are offered invaluable one-on-one guidance from second- or third-year students, ensuring a smooth transition into law school life and fostering a sense of community from the outset. This mentorship system not only provides practical advice but also nurtures a sense of belonging, helping LGBTQ+ students find their footing and flourish academically and personally.
Outlaws impact extends far beyond the confines of the law school. In recent years, Outlaws has organized solidarity programming, including community-wide events open to LGBTQ+ individuals and allies throughout Iowa City. By opening their arms to the wider community, Outlaws serve as a catalyst for change, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a more inclusive future.
“UIowa Outlaws also impacts the larger LGBTQ+ community on campus and in Iowa City by offering solidarity programming. The past two years, Outlaws has hosted events open to the entire Iowa City community for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies to gather in solidarity. These solidarity socials allow the Iowa City community to come together in support of LGBTQ+ people,” said 3L Liam Conrad, current co-president of Outlaws.
Outlaws strive to be a force for positive change within the legal realm and the broader community by providing a haven of support and a platform for education and awareness.
“Student groups play an impactful role for law students, especially for those belonging to underrepresented groups, because it can be hard to see yourself in this profession. In a lot of the cases we read, the big players don’t look like us or come from our background. So being able to find people with our shared characteristics is important,” said Jonathan.
Not long ago, many student groups like this didn’t exist. Iowa Law alumnus Bill Crews graduated in 1977, during a time when no formalized group existed to support LGBTQ+ students in law school.
While at Iowa Law, he was a closeted gay man hoping to run for Congress but after deciding not to go down that path, Crews’ first thought was “Hey! I can be gay!” He was still closeted publicly in law school, but it was during this time, outside of school, he met the man who would became his best friend and spouse now for over 44 years.
Crews identified the need for this type of student group in law school and recently gave financial support to Outlaws, sharing “Everyone has the right to live and love their own lives. Solidarity with Outlaws supports justice and individual freedom.”
LGBTQ+ History Month is a time to honor progress and strive for a more inclusive future. Outlaws exemplifies these ideals by offering a lifeline to LGBTQ+ students and and extending its impact to the larger community.