Stetson Law celebrates Pride Month with inaugural flag raising

Cheers went up in the Sebring Horseshoe courtyard on June 2 as students, faculty and staff at Stetson Law kicked off Pride Month 2021 and made school history with the inaugural raising of the Progress Pride Flag.

“This flag really represents Stetson’s commitment to not only its students, but the entire LGBTQ+ community as we continue to fight for our… just right to be alive,” said Edson Abadia Jr., a 3L and president of Stetson Lambda Legal Society, which organized the event.

The new Progress Pride Flag represents even greater inclusivity and the advancements the LGBTQ community has made in recent years. It features additional stripes of color: the white stripe is to remember people who have died from HIV; the pink and blue stripes represent the transgender community; and the black and grown stripes represent people of color and their efforts to move forward LGBTQ rights, Abadia explained.

Jen Rex, left, and Edson Abadia Jr. with the Progress Pride Flag.
Jen Rex, left, and Edson Abadia Jr. with the Progress Pride Flag.

The crowd was small to ensure it complied with Safer Stetson COVID-19 policies, but the joy and excitement were palpable as the sun shone and a breezed picked up, setting the flags flying.

“It’s actually the first time I’ve ever been a part of an institution that had a flag raising ceremony for the month of Pride, and so I think that speaks not only to my school, but also to our country and the progression that we’re making, and it means a lot,” said Jake Erdman, a 3L.

Jen Rex, a 3L and vice present of Lambda Legal, agreed the event was a significant milestone for the school that sent a powerful message to students.

“For me that’s really important because my identity as part of the LGBTQ community is one of the reasons I came to Stetson,” Rex said. “I knew that it’d be a very accepting place, and I want to work to help support that community and to do legal work in that field, so I think that it’s really important to be somewhere that supports that and that I feel like I’m a part of the community here.”

The Progress Pride Flag will remain in the courtyard through the end of June as Stetson University College of Law honors and supports all members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Pride Awards

Joann Grages Burnett.
Joann Grages Burnett

Lambda Legal Society continued the celebration with an evening event to bestow awards and discuss the latest LGBTQ events and legal news.

This year the organization launched new Pride Awards to recognize people who do great things for the LGBTQ community at Stetson Law and beyond. This year’s winners were Joann Grages Burnett, Edson Abadia Jr., and Nathan Bruemmer.

Burnett, associate director of Career & Professional Development at Stetson Law, was chosen for her assistance with developing Lambda events, as well as her ongoing support for LGBTQ students as they find their professional place beyond law school. Abadia was praised for being the driving force to revive Lambda Legal and expanding its community outreach. Bruemmer was recognized for his steadfast support of Stetson Law and being an outspoken leader in the community at large.

St. Pete PrideFest

Nathan Bruemmer.
Nathan Bruemmer

Bruemmer, a 2017 Stetson Law alumnus, is president and interim executive of St. Pete PrideFest, the largest Pride event in Florida, attracting more than 265,000 attendees with an economic impact of more than $67 million. He said this year’s event will span four weeks with themed festivals with limited attendance. The smaller gatherings will give people a chance to focus on the stories that make Pride so great. The themes include Pride OUTside, Arts + Qulture, and Taste of PrideFest, as well as more family-friendly events to celebrate all the different ways people create and define their families. See all the event details at

Celebrating victories and a look to the battle ahead

Joseph Morrissey

Law Professor Joseph Morrissey discussed various court cases and legislation from the past year, as well as upcoming decisions, that have impacted the LGBTQ community. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in June last year extended Title VII protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“That was huge,” he said.  

Recent federal policy changes include the new Biden Administration executive order to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the rescindment of the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. The Florida Commission on Human Rights also affirmed it would protect members of the LGBTQ community from employment discrimination, as well as housing discrimination under the Florida Fair Housing Act.

“So there’s all sorts of reason to be hopeful and excited about the current environment,” Morrisey said.

However, there has been conservative backlash to LGBTQIA victories, he added, and the worst of them target transgender people. Since beginning of 2021, there have been 80 state initiatives that would discriminate against transgender people, including prohibitions on transgender youth from participating in sports and having access to healthcare. These are thinly veiled attempts at discrimination that should not make it into law and those that do should be challenged, Morrissey said.

In November 2020, the Supreme Court heard Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, and its decision is due any day. The case could allow private agencies that receive taxpayer-funding to provide government services — such as foster care providers, food banks, homeless shelters, and more — to deny services to people who are LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon. Morrissey said it is uncertain how the Court may rule on the case given the new conservative supermajority.

Law students, as future advocates, must understand the full effect of how court decisions and federal policies impact all levels of society so they can help take up these battles, ensure these voices are heard, and continue the victories, he said.  

Other News

Lambda Legal Society is planning a new student Mentorship Program to provide support for incoming law students. Staff, faculty members and other students are welcome to participate, Abadia said. Contact him at [email protected] for more information.  

Lavendar Law, the world’s conference and career fair for LGBTQ students, will be held on July 28-30, 2021, with the job fair from 2-6 p.m. on July 30. Seth Rosen, director of Development for the organization, said they will have more than 165 recruiters from law firms, corporations, nonprofits and government agencies.