More than 100 University of Michigan Law School graduates on Saturday staged a walk out during Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s commencement speech in protest of his anti-LGBT voting record.
The students returned to the graduation ceremony when Portman (R) finished speaking, reported PrideSource.com.
Outside the auditorium, arriving guests were handed a pamphlet explaining the coming protest, and contained a letter from more than 200 Michigan Law alumni to Law School Dean Evan Caminker.
“Senator Portman, in public life, has actively worked to deny some members of the graduating class their civil rights … Our objection is not a political one … rather we are concerned about the message Michigan Law is sending by giving an anti-gay rights speaker the honor of marking what should be a joyful occasion,” the letter read.
About 60 percent of the graduates wore rainbow buttons or flair on their gowns. Family and friends of the graduates wore the rainbow ribbon to show solidarity with grads who would be affected by Portman’s votes.
The students cited Portman’s vote as a congressman in 1996 for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that said no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage. DOMA has since been declared unconstitutional in federal court.
The students also cited Portman’s votes in 1999 to bar same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., from adopting, and in 2004 for an unsuccessful bill to amend the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage.
Portman is a 1984 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
“I couldn’t imagine sitting there, smiling, and being honored by someone who would deny me the right to my civil, human, basic right to marry my partner and raise a family,” said Ringo, a 2011 graduate.