Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies

Established in 2012, the Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies is a resource for students, alumni, and faculty of Western New England University School of Law, the legal community, and the general public.

The Center serves as a focal point for work in a broad number of areas relating to gender and sexuality, ranging from civil rights issues affecting women and sexual minorities to feminist and queer theory. The Center works to engage with the legal community, with the University, and with members of the School of Law on core issues of gender and sexuality across a broad spectrum of law, including criminal law, immigration, employment, family law, health law, discrimination, prisoners’ rights, legislation, leadership and business, and international and comparative law.

Lectures, Events, and Student Projects


The Center develops interdisciplinary symposia to encourage dialogue about specific areas of law and their intersection with gender and sexuality issues, inviting leading experts beyond our campus to share their expertise. Such discussions are designed to inspire future faculty and student scholarship.

A Nationally Recognized Faculty

Western New England University School of Law is uniquely positioned to launch such a center. The School has attracted to its faculty some of the leading minds in gender and sexuality studies, including internationally renowned GLAD Attorney Jennifer Levi, who has litigated many important transgender and same-sex marriage cases, and Professor Erin Buzuvis, who is a Title IX scholar and college athletics discrimination expert. 

They join longtime faculty members Professor Anne Goldstein, who wrote a series of foundational gay rights articles following the Bowers v. Hardwick decision, and Professor Taylor Flynn, who has written much-cited scholarly articles in the areas of sexual orientation and recently served as Chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Section of AALS.

Their ongoing research and legal representation of sexual minorities and transgender individuals will continue to build on the body of legal scholarship and break new ground in all facets of law.

The Gender and Sexuality Studies Concentration

Leveraging the expertise of these and other faculty members, Western New England introduced a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies in 2011. The Center also works with faculty to develop coursework beyond the concentration to incorporate issues of gender justice and LGBT rights into the general curriculum in order to provide all students with a foundation on how these issues affect various practice areas.

To learn more about programs or events sponsored by the Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies, contact Professor Erin Buzuvis at 413-796-1405 or

Read about LGBT life at the Western New England University School of Law.

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Spring 2015 Events

Fair Housing Rights: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues
Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies hosted a daylong program of speakers and presentations on fair housing issues affecting the LGBT community.

Speakers included Meris Berquist, Executive Director, Massachusetts Fair Housing Center; Assistant Attorney General Ann Lynch, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office; Lauren Wilhote, Esq., U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity; and Commissioner Sunila Thomas-George, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Fall 2014 Events

Domestic Violence and the National Football League: A Public Discussion with Professor Michael McCann 
October 1, 2014

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Studies presented a discussion of the intersection of domestic violence and the culture of sport through the example of recent events involving the National Football League.

The lead discussant, appearing via Skype, was Professor of Law and sports law expert Michael McCann. McCann is the Director of Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire.  He has appeared frequently in print, online, and social media, as well as on television, to analyze legal issues in the world of sport. His recent commentary has addressed such topics as the antitrust litigation against the NCAA, the Donald Sterling controversy, and the NFL’s response to Ray Rice.

Professor of Law Erin Buzuvis, Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University, also contributed to the discussion. Buzuvis researches and writes about sex discrimination and gender issues in the context of sport.   

Spring 2014 Events

Domestic Violence Series 
Film: Crime After Crime
February 17, 2014

Crime After Crime tells the story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence. Over 26 years in prison could not crush the spirit of this determined woman, despite the wrongs she suffered, first at the hands of a duplicitous boyfriend who beat her and forced her into prostitution, and later by prosecutors who used the threat of the death penalty to corner her Into a life behind bars. Debbie’s story takes an unexpected turn two decades later when two rookie land use attorneys step forward to take on her case pro bono. Springfield attorney Bonnie Allen will introduce the film.
Cosponsored by Career Services

Bonnie G. Allen L’93 is in private practice with offices in Springfield and Northampton, specializing in criminal defense, civil rights and education law.  She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst - University Without Walls in 1990, and Western New England College School of Law in 1993.  She was a judicial intern for the Honorable Michael M. Ponsor, U.S. District Court, after which she joined the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Springfield Superior Court Trial Unit as a Public Defender (1994–1998). Attorney Allen served as Supervising Attorney for the District and Superior Court Bar Advocates in Hampden County from (2005-2010). She has been a presenter for CLE seminars for MCLE, MBA and CPCS, and annually cochairs MCLE’s Trends in Eyewitness Identification. In 2006, Attorney Allen was awarded the CPCS Thurgood Marshall Award for “zealous advocacy of the poor and the right to effective assistance of counsel.” 

Discussion of Gender Inequities in the Treatment of Intimate Partner Violence
Attorney Wayne Thomas from the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project in Boston, copresenting with Professor Jennifer Levi about the MCAD v. The R.O.S.E. Fund case, which involves a male victim of intimate partner violence who allegedly was denied services on the basis of gender.
March 12, 2014
Sponsored by OutLaw. 

Wayne Thomas is the creator of the legal program at the GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project in Boston, where he practices as the Managing Attorney. He handles civil protection order cases, discrimination, and family law matters and provides advocacy to victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system. Wayne served on the advisory board of the American Bar Association’s Legal Assistance and Education for LGBT Victims of Domestic Violence Project (2007-2009). He has presented on LGBTQ domestic and sexual violence legal issues at national conferences and trainings on behalf of the ABA and the National LGBT Bar Association. He has served multiple terms as c-chair of the GLBT Domestic Violence Coalition in Boston and was a member of the LGBT Subcommittee that successfully advocated for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity protections in the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. He is also a coauthor of a chapter on intimate partner violence in GLAD’s book: Transgender Family Law. He is a graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law.

Discussion of Domestic Violence Issues for Non-citizens and Immigrants
Attorney Hema Sarangapani from Boston, joined by Attorney Hisham Leil of Community Legal Aid, discuss the Violence Against Act Reauthorization Act of 2013.
April 2, 2014
Cosponsored by Women’s Law Association

Hema Sarang-Sieminski is an immigration attorney in private practice in Jamaica Plain, MA. She provides representation on a range of humanitarian and family-based immigration matters and specializes in options for immigrant survivors of domestic violence or partner abuse. Previously, Hema was a Staff Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services working primarily with immigrant survivors to access relief under the Violence Against Women Act. Hema is a 2005 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, and is committed to increasing awareness of the intersection of domestic violence with various forms of oppression including racism, sexism, homo/bi/trans phobia, anti-immigrant sentiment and ableism.  She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has been a consultant and trainer with the Northwest Network in Seattle, WA and is a current volunteer with Boston-based The Network/La Red, an organization dedicated to ending partner abuse and oppression in LGBTQ communities.

Hisham Leil has been practicing immigration law since 1998. Attorney Leil started out in private practice in Hartford where he focused on criminal defense, family law and of course, immigration law. In 2007, he joined Western Massachusetts Legal Services (WMLS) to develop and immigration practice within the agency. When WMLS merged with Legal Assistance of Central Massachusetts to form Community Legal Aid in 2011, Attorney Leil was hired as the managing attorney for CLA’s largest western Massachusetts office in Springfield.  Attorney Leil has trained agencies, domestic violence shelters and law enforcement throughout Massachusetts and the United States. In addition to being an adjunct professor at Western New England, he works as an attorney with ASISTA, a national organization funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Fall 2013 Events 

Profiling, Race, and Masculinity: Florida, Massachusetts, and Beyond
Continuing the important national dialogue about race and profiling in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing and the trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman.
September 25, 2013
Watch the video.

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Indian Child Welfare Act
Monday, September 30, 2013, 6:30 p.m., Law School Common 
Hosted by Professors Jennifer Levi and Giovanna Shay with guests Professor Laura Briggs, Chair, Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Tracey A. DeMeyer, Shawnee-Cherokee author, journalist, and blogger; and Professor Barbara Atwood, Mary Anne Richey Professor Emerita of Law, University of Arizona, via Skype. 


In the News

Read about Professor Jennifer Levi's recent collaboration entitled Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy.

Connecticut Law Tribune January 30, 2012

CBS 3 Massachusetts’s New Transgender Rights Law:
Strategies for Compliance and Advocacy
January 14, 2012

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