Helfer to serve as Martin Fellow at State Department Feb. 22

February 14, 2011Duke Law News

Laurence R. Helfer, the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law, will serve as the inaugural Jacob L. Martin Fellow at the U.S. Department of State on Feb. 22, 2011. A scholar of international law whose expertise includes international human rights, Helfer will brief attorneys in the office of the Legal Adviser on international lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights and lay the groundwork for an ongoing relationship.

Each Martin Fellow is a distinguished law professor invited by Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh to address and interact with attorneys from different sections in the State Department on a particular area of interest. “Our goal is for you to then serve as a continuing resource for [the office’s] attorneys who work on LGBT rights,” Koh wrote in his letter of invitation to Helfer.

The co-director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, Helfer is coauthor of Human Rights and Intellectual Property: Mapping the Global Interface (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and the law school casebook Human Rights (Foundation Press 2d ed., 2009), in addition to scholarly articles and op eds on the rights of LGBT individuals in international law.

As the Martin Fellow, Helfer will speak to State Department attorneys about trends in international and domestic lawmaking and litigation relating to sexual orientation and human rights. In addition to tracing the evolution of issues such as privacy, discrimination, and recognition of same-sex relationships in various countries and international venues, Helfer will address the recent legal and social backlash against LGBT individuals in certain regions. In areas of East and West Africa, for example, violence against gay men and lesbians is widespread and national legislatures have introduced bills to impose harsh criminal penalties against individuals who engage in private, consensual homosexual sex and human rights advocacy relating to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I am honored and delighted that Legal Adviser has invited me to speak at the State Department on international LGBT rights, which is an increasingly important and visible area of human rights law,” Helfer said. “The U.S. has an opportunity to take a leading role on global LGBT legal issues, building on
President Obama’s recent condemnation of the killing of a gay human rights activist in Uganda. I look forward to stimulating discussions with attorneys in the Legal Adviser’s office.”