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UCLA Gets $1 Million to Study Legal Topics Involving Gay Couples


A gay couple that hope to marry one day has donated more than $1 million to the University of California, Los Angeles, to fund research on legal topics involving same-sex relationships.

The gift announced last week from John McDonald and Rob Wright will support what is described as the nation’s first endowed academic chair in sexual orientation law at UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy. The think tank already explores such topics as anti-homosexual discrimination, the impact of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies and the demographics of same-sex couples who have adopted children.

The two say they want to promote objective research, but they also hope to aid the campaign for gay marriage and other gay rights issues.

“This is going to support legal scholarship, legal research and education that covers a whole area so fundamental to creating change,” said McDonald, 74, a former chief executive of a medical and hospital management firm.

McDonald and Wright, 58, who worked in advertising and real estate, have lived together for almost 25 years and are registered as domestic partners. The two split their time between West Hollywood, Calif. and Colorado.

Some universities have chairs in gay and gender studies, but they’re usually in the humanities and social sciences and not in a law school. A member of UCLA’s law faculty is expected to be picked for the chair in three to six month.

“This is a big step,” Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute, told  The Los Angeles Times.

Among the institute’s recent studies, it was found that more homosexuals live openly in rural areas of the United States than in the past and that nearly half of skilled nursing homes in the Los Angeles area will not treat HIV patients. Sears added that the institute seeks to present both sides of the gay marriage issue.

According to the Times, McDonald and Wright have already donated $100,000 so the institute could offer training for judges and lawyers in sexual orientation law. The couple also want the professor who takes the McDonald/Wright chair to avoid partisan advocacy and stick to objective research on legal topics involving same-sex relationships, including adoption and property settlements after gay couples break up.

Diverse Staff and Wire Reports


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