Yesterday, we talked about a Boston College Law professor, Scott Fitzgibbon, who went up to Maine to shoot an anti-gay-marriage commercial. John Garvey, Dean of Boston College Law, didn’t respond to us, but he did send around an email to the BC Law community. As many predicted, Dean Garvey defended Professor Fitzgibbon. Here is the pertinent part of Dean Garvey’s letter:
Professor Fitzgibbon, as a member of our faculty, is free to express his views. His public statements represent his own opinions, as the advertisement makes clear, and do not state any official position of Boston College Law School. We also have faculty members who hold a contrary view, which they too are free to express publicly. Many have done so while referring to themselves as BC Law professors. One of them has publicly led the fight to oppose the Solomon Amendment on the grounds that it is an affront to gay and lesbian students and prospective members of the U.S. military. Others have taken controversial positions on such subjects as abortion, euthanasia, and the treatment of detainees.
I believe that free expression is central to our mission as a law school committed to public discourse and the free exchange of ideas and opinions. We have faculty and students from many different backgrounds, and with many different points of view. It is our expectation that they will continue to engage in public discourse, and argue their positions with passion and civility, with the intellectual freedom that an academic institution affords to us all.
Dean Garvey is clearly right insofar as academic institutions must be grounded on the free exchange of thoughts and ideas, even when those ideas are controversial.
But as NYU Law Dean Richard Revesz found out, the gay marriage issue isn’t always as simple as a mere intellectual debate. If you believe that marriage is a basic civil right, then the issue can transcend the normal bounds of academic discourse.
Not surprisingly, Above the Law readers have some opinions on whether Dean Garvey is taking the correct stance here. We present Dean Garvery’s full letter and some of the best comments and emails, after the jump.