The Delaware campus yesterday honored two civil rights advocates who have been leaders in the movement for LGBT equality, during a program that served as the campus’ Martin Luther King day celebration.
Drewry N. Fennell and Widener Law alumna Lisa B. Goodman ’94 received the school’s Martin Luther King Service Award at an event that also kicked off Widener’s Semester of Service Program. Widener presents the award annually to a member of the community who has lived King’s dream, who has manifested in his or her life’s work those commitments to community service and to social justice that the school of law seeks to realize in its Semester of Service Project. Through the project, Widener Law students contribute their efforts to charitable labor and pro bono law-related service.
Tuesday marked the first time two people received the service award together. The recipient is chosen by the law dean from a list of nominees forwarded by the school’s Faculty Diversity and Accommodations Committee.
“There are no finer examples in Delaware of Dr. King’s admonition that we need to move beyond self -centeredness, than Lisa and Drew,” Vice Dean Erin Dal
Fennell and Goodman were the first couple united under Delaware’s civil union law on Jan. 1, 2012, about 17 months before the state passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage. They worked tirelessly in support of both measures, and are widely recognized as Delaware leaders in efforts to ensure equal rights for all people, no matter their sexual preference.
Goodman is a partner at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor in Wilmington and founding president of Equality Delaware, the statewide advocacy group that works to ensure dignity, safety and equality for all LGBT Delawareans. She told the crowd the battle for LGBT equality is far from over, and many other civil rights battles have yet to begin.
“Take what you’re learning in your years here,” she told the students, “and go fight for justice.”
Fennell is executive director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council, an independent body that strives for an effective system that is fair, efficient and accountable. An attorney, she formerly served as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware. Fennell said she came out as a homosexual on the floor of the Delaware House of Representatives during a committee hearing, to audible gasps. One legislator changed his vote because of her. Over time, there were enough votes for marriage equality.
“There is strength in numbers. There is comfort in fellowship,” she said. “Say the hard things. Say them out loud. No one knew that better than Dr. King, who said the truth over and over and over again.”
The Harrisburg campus will observe the holiday with a program at noon Jan. 21 in the Pit, featuring Chief Administrative Law Judge Tracy L. Henry of the Department of Public Welfare, Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. Henry is president of Dauphin County’s Keystone Bar Association.