Guest Speaker, Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson

On Monday, March 2, BYU Law’s Federalist Society welcomed Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson, a specialist in family law and health law from the University of Illinois College of Law. Wilson is a widely recognized legal scholar and author of several books and textbooks. In 2014, she was elected to the executive council of the International Society of Family Law, an international scholarly association dedicated to studying and discussing family law. Wilson has also worked with state law reform efforts, and in 2007 she received the citizen’s Litigation Award for her work on changing Virginia’s informed consent law. She has also recently volunteered to assist Utah in drafting legislation for LGBT rights.

Wilson began her remarks by asking a question: “How can we actually affect a social momentum toward gay rights?” She tempered her question by stating that movement in one direction does not necessarily mean retrogressing in another. “I don’t think it’s a one-up, one-down,” she said.  “It doesn’t mean that to have gay rights we lose religious liberty. It doesn’t mean that having religious liberty, we lose gay rights.” Rather, she posed the possibility of framing LGBT rights without infringing on the rights of religious opponents.

While noting a concern for religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage that have been losing their tax-exempt status, Wilson commented on how she regretted seeing certain of these groups disappear. “The Catholic Charities of Boston closed its adoption service agencies after 103 years because it could not get an exemption from the Massachusetts Legislature,” she said. “Religious charities do a huge amount of good in the world, including Catholic charities, and we don’t want to force them to withdraw.”

Wilson compared LGBT rights to the Civil Rights movement 50 years ago. She discussed exceptions, stating that privacy rights should not be called into question and neither should individuals be forced to forego their religious objects. “You can’t have a gay person on the path to marriage blocked by a person who has an unfettered, unqualified religious objection.”