GWU Adding Sexual Orientation Question to Law School Application

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 05, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

George Washington University is already very LGBT friendly. According to the GW Hatchet, the school already receives perfect marks on the Law School Admissions Council's LGBT survey due to its nondiscrimination policy and LGBT-focused student organizations, classes, and faculty.

That's why we have no doubt that adding the sexual orientation question to their law school application is being done with the best of intentions. The school hopes that it will help them to provide more comprehensive information about academic programs, student services, and mentoring initiatives. Michael Komo, a Student Bar Association Senator and first-year law student who pushed for the change stated that it would "signal to LGBT applicants and allies that this is a LGBT-positive law school and university."

To those who are concerned with such things, we'd think that the perfect score on the LSAC LGBT survey would suffice, but it's not like the question can hurt, can it?

It does present an interesting question from a pragmatic standpoint. Is the school opening itself up to questions of bias or reverse-discrimination from heterosexual applicants? What about LGBT applicants who are not out or who do not wish their orientation noted on their law school records? After all, for many, their sexual orientation, race, or gender are only parts of their identity, not the defining characteristic. Wouldn't it just be easier to include a brochure touting the school's openness and tolerance with the application?

Even without the orientation question, many of us are hesitant to answer the litany of questions on today's applications. Race, gender, age, veteran status, disability, income, and parents' income are already commonly-asked questions. What ever happened to the days of looking at LSAT scores and GPAs, making decisions strictly on the numbers, and allowing students interested in special-interest groups to seek out the groups themselves? Though the school says that it will not consider orientation as an admissions factor, having it on the application invites the questions, including whether orientation will eventually become an affirmative action category.

Even if these are idiotic concerns, someone is going to bring them up. It might've been an easier path, with the same benefits, just to send out information on student services and organizations for LGBT, ethnicities, and mutual interests, all in a separate packet just to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Or perhaps include a voluntary interests survey for those already admitted to the school to provide the same information without concerns about admissions bias.

It should be noted that GWU isn't the first school, nor law school, to add the orientation question. Five of the top twenty schools now include a similar question. The LSAC common application also includes the question. It should be interesting to see if other schools add the orientation question, and if so, if lawsuits and questions of fairness follow.

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