Gift Establishes Student Clerkship to Further Social Justice and Support New Civil Rights Lawyers

(San Francisco, CA, November 09, 2010)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights is proud to announce the new C. Edwin Baker Clerkship, named after C. Edwin “Ed” Baker, the University of Pennsylvania law professor who was known as one of the nation’s foremost constitutional legal scholars and a longtime ally for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality before his death in December 2009.

Professor Baker’s estate, with a $150,000 gift authorized by a committee of his friends and colleagues, is continuing his legacy by making it possible for future generations of lawyers to follow in his footsteps through the C. Edwin Baker Clerkship at NCLR. The clerkship will create a lasting program that supports stipends for student law clerks and fellows who have financial need, and who are committed to practicing social justice and progressive civil rights law.

“Ed was one of the most incredible progressive legal scholars in American history, and we are honored that his estate has chosen NCLR to continue his legacy by helping develop new generations of attorneys who are equally committed, equally devoted, and equally as passionate about the law and social justice as Ed was throughout his life,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “He truly is a role model, and we are proud to be able to provide this opportunity through NCLR for the next generation of legal leaders.”

From the outset of his career as a young scholar and professor, Professor Baker was an ally for LGBTQ equality and an advocate for social justice and progressive civil rights. His sister, Nancy Baker, said he was an ally in—every dimension—personally, politically, philanthropically, and in his professional scholarship and work. As a lesbian who came of age when being gay was classified as both criminal and crazy, I feel particularly lucky to have had the love and support of my extraordinary brother. Not too many lesbians have heterosexual brothers who published op-ed pieces in The New York Times supporting LGBTQ rights, donated to lesbian charities, and joined in legal briefs supporting the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. My brother did all this, and more.”

In the mid 1970s, after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Yale University, Professor Baker risked his career as an untenured assistant professor at the University of Oregon Law School to speak openly—at a time when most allies were fearful—in support of lesbian and gay rights because he believed it was the right thing to do, helping to organize the law school faculty to support the Eugene Gay Rights Ordinance, and later to oppose its repeal. He joined the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1981, where he was the Nicholas F. Gallicchio Professor of Law and Communication, focusing his teaching on constitutional law, mass media law, the First Amendment, and jurisprudence.

“It is rare that a great intellect is also such a kind, caring, giving, and down to earth person,” said New York Law School Professor Carlin Meyer, who took part in the committee, along with Brooklyn Law School Professor Michael Madow and Columbia Law School Professor Carol Sanger, that created the student clerkship at NCLR. “Ed was a great friend and mentor, and in this way, he will continue to mentor others despite his untimely death.”

Since Professor Baker’s death, his sister Nancy has heard from people who knew him over the years, with each noting his commitment to the law and social justice, “but even more importantly they have spoken about the way my brother always met people as people, viewing sexual orientation and gender identity as no reason to relate to people differently.

“My hope is that through this clerkship, we make it possible for my brother’s legacy, his devotion to social justice and his commitment to LGBTQ equality to live on in future generations.”

Read more about C. Edwin Baker and the C. Edwin Baker Clerkship at www.NCLRights.org/BakerClerkship.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.