UT’s College of Law springboard for Jones

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KNOXVILLE – The University of Tennessee ’s College of Law ’s GLBT student group has a jewel in its crown. That jewel, better known as President Nikki Jones, brings a broad range of experiences to her position at their helm, especially for one so young.

This homegrown Middle Tennessee self-described “Army brat” has lived “all over,” but settled in Crossville, choosing Cumberland University in Lebanon for her undergraduate studies.

Her grandfather set the pace for the rest of the family when he joined the military just before the beginning of the Korean War. Since then, her family has had a tradition of military service.

She acknowledges that her childhood experiences living in a variety of places has broadened her horizons and expanded her viewpoint regarding a number of issues.

A move to Washington , D.C. , at age 22, and an opportunity to work as a legislative assistant was the prelude to attending Howard University to study comparative politics and international relations for her Master’s degree.

Back at home in Tennessee , Nikki sees the need for change.

“The UT College of Law has some work to do in increasing the diversity of the student body,” says Jones referring to both racial minorities and GLBT presence.

It was in Washington , during her six years as a legislative assistant, that she came to fully realize the various issues that would impact her life as a gay woman.

“It really increased my awareness about the lack of opportunities and inequities that confront us as GLBT Americans,” she declared.

Jones further observes that Lambda’s College of Law presence has gone through phases of increasing and decreasing activity levels, and she speculates that the current decrease in interest should be viewed in the context of an increasingly conservative atmosphere nationwide.

The conservative national climate is also evidenced by the growing number of states that have amended their state constitution to prevent appeals of the various DOMA (anti-marriage equality) laws

In fact, there may be a ballot initiative on this very issue in 2006 barring successful attempts to prevent that from occurring in Tennessee . Legal challenges are currently going forward in the court system and are based on procedural errors made by those seeking to change Tennessee ’s Constitution.

Looking to the future, Jones hopes to bring some exciting speakers to the College of Law , including voices from the Service Members Legal Defense Network and others. She also has plans to build a Web site for UT’s GLBT law school students to increase awareness of Lambda Legal’s presence on campus and to facilitate GLBT students’ access to resources available to them. She hopes the increased visibility will increase the GLBT presence at the College of Law .

She is interested in issues of concern to GLBT citizens such as tax law and estate planning with hopes of increasing the availability of gay-friendly legal counsel.

“My overall goal is just to increase the range and quality of services available to GLBT clients,” adds Jones.