A University of South Florida graduate who was one of the lawyers in a ground-breaking gay and lesbian rights case will speak at his alma mater Thursday night.
Houston attorney Mitchell Katine is returning to USF for the first time since he graduated in 1982. He'll be the keynote speaker at a USF Library-sponsored event called "Gay Landslide: Victories for Human Rights."
The self-described gay rights activist served as local counsel in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case, where the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the country's laws against sodomy.
"The Supreme Court said that gay and lesbian people have the right to dignity and the right to self-determination in their own relationships," Katine said. "That cleared the way for what has been going on the last ten years, up to the Windsor decision and it's been tremendous."
"What has been going on" includes a series of court rulings that has made same-sex marriage legal in most of the country.
"There are now 32 states - I'm going to say that again - 32 states where gay and lesbian people can get married in this country. That's amazing! We've come so much further than I ever thought we would after the Lawrence decision," Katine said.
And when confronted with the argument that most of these decisions weren't made by a majority of people at the ballot box, but instead by judges, Katine pointed out: "Most of these court decisions are being handed down by conservative, Republican-appointed judges. And if anybody would have told me that these conservative Republican judges were going to be ruling in favor of gay marriage, I would have told them they were crazy!"
Katine says we're not too far from a ruling from the high court on the subject.
"The Supreme Court is letting the country percolate, so to speak, and get used to this idea of gay marriage before they come in and they clean up the few remaining states, which will probably be Texas, it might be Florida as well."
He thinks a final decision will happen in 2016.
"By then you're going to have these circuit courts - the Florida case, the Texas case, the 5th Circuit, the 11th Circuit - we're going to get some more decisions, but what's amazing is all of these decisions are coming down in favor of gay marriage," Katine said.
Thursday night's event begins with a reception at 5:30 in the USF Alumni Center on the Tampa campus, followed by Katine's speech at 6:30. There will also will be a panel discussion featuring Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who is gay, and USF Associate Professor Sara Crawley, a scholar on issues of gender and sexuality.