Interview with Shannon Fauver, March 11, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is an oral history interview with Shannon Fauver.

Segment Synopsis: Anu Kasarabada introduces herself as the interviewer and Shannon Fauver as the subject of the oral history interview.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Fauver Law Office; Love v. Beshear; Obergefell v. Hodges; Shannon Fauver

Subjects: Attorneys; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage

00:00:52 - Childhood in Louisville, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: [clears throat] Actually, I grew up--my mom was, had us, well, had me and one of my sisters, in high school. So I actually remember her graduating from college when I was, like, six and law school when I was ten. But at that point, she was losing her vision. So I was, we had to read her, her law books...

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she helped her mother, who was vision-impaired, with her law school coursework. She also talks about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky and attending Morehead University for her undergraduate degree. Fauver then shares how she decided to become a lawyer while in the Peace Corps.

Keywords: Attention deficit disorder; Law books; Vision impairment

Subjects: Attorneys; Law schools; Lawyers; Louisville (Ky.); Morehead State University; Peace Corps/Morocco

00:05:57 - Choosing law school

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Partial Transcript: And then when I was in Morocco for the Peace Corps for two years, I decided to be a lawyer because I grew up with lawyers. This is how you help people. And when I was overseas, it was really hard to function in a society when you didn't know what was going on. And I, so I actually started my law practice to work with the immigrant community.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver shares why she decided to become a lawyer and her reluctance to tell her family about her decision. She talks about the achievements of the women in her family and their strength of character.

Keywords: Bar exams; Grandmother; Mother; Vision impairment

Subjects: Attorney; Law schools; Lawyer; Louis D. Brandeis School of Law; Morocco; Peace Corps/Morocco

00:08:58 - Going to law school at Brandeis School of Law

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Partial Transcript: Well, I was a night student, um, because I was working.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she juggled going to law school while working as a legal assistant, through two pregnancies, and then caring for two infants and toddlers. She talks about the response of the law school and faculty.

Keywords: Law firms; Law students; Legal assistants; Night students; Parenting

Subjects: Law schools; Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

00:16:18 - Differences between night students and day students in law school

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Partial Transcript: Well, since I switched the second year, and I was taking both day and night classes, I got to see those kids, too.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes the differences she observed between the culture of students attending law school in the evening versus the culture of students attending during the day time.

Keywords: Day school; Day students; Law students; Night school; Night students

Subjects: Law schools; Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

00:20:10 - Opening a law practice

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Partial Transcript: I opened my law practice the next day.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes what it was like to open a solo law practice immediately after passing the bar exam, why she chose to do so and how she did it.

Keywords: Legal cases; Parenting; Practicing law; Solo law practice

Subjects: Attorneys; Criminal law; Lawyers

00:26:22 - Practicing bankruptcy law

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Partial Transcript: Was it--you went through bankruptcy yourself.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes what it is like to practice bankruptcy law, including during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Keywords: Attorney fees; Bankruptcy cases; Bankruptcy law; Bankruptcy procedures; Evictions

Subjects: Attorneys; Bankruptcy; Global Financial Crisis, 2008-2009; Lawyers; United States. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

00:30:31 - Serving LGBT clients

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Partial Transcript: I've also done a lot of stuff with the LGBT community, from the start, since I want to represent people who needed help. And I treat people equally. So I had people coming from across the state just to do their wills.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she developed an LGBT clientele by advertising in the Gay Yellow Pages.

Keywords: Bankruptcy law; Bob Joles; Joey Lester; Legal cases; Legal protections for same-sex couples; The Gay Yellow Pages

Subjects: Attorneys; Bankruptcy; Bankruptcy--United States; Gay couples; LGBTQ+ people; Lawyers

00:32:13 - Bob Joles and Joey Lester

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Partial Transcript: But they came in, and they were, they owned a business together, and they were filing bankruptcy.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she came to represent Bob Joles and Joey Lester, the first same-sex couple in Kentucky to file for bankruptcy together, including legal proceedings in the Western District Court of Kentucky.

Keywords: Bankruptcy law; Bob Joles; Joey Lester; Legal cases; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Star Trek conventions; United States v. Windsor

Subjects: Attorneys; Bankruptcy; Bankruptcy--United States; Gay couples; LGBTQ+ people; Lawyers; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:43:05 - Deciding to file federal marriage equality lawsuit

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Partial Transcript: Her ruling was saying that nobody asked for gay marriage to be legalized. It's like, oh. Every attorney in the country goes, oh, there you go. Well, here we go.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she and Dawn Elliott, her law firm associate, came to file their federal suit challenging Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex marriage. She talks about how and Elliott found plaintiff couples for their case.

Keywords: Bankruptcy law; Bob Joles; Bourke v. Beshear; Greg Bourke; Joey Lester; Justice Anthony Kennedy; Kim Franklin; Legal cases; Legal clients; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Michael DeLeon; Tamera Boyd Franklin; United States v. Windsor

Subjects: Attorneys; Bankruptcy; Bankruptcy--United States; Gay couples; Kennedy, Anthony M., 1936-; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:47:23 - Filing the federal marriage equality lawsuit

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Partial Transcript: And so when I call him, I'm like, I'm going to be filing this thing like tomorrow. And he's on vacation. He's like, what are you doing?

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she and Elliott prepared their filing in district court. She talks about Al Gerhardstein, counsel for Jim Obergefell, and how she and Elliott chose their arguments for their first federal civil rights complaint.

Keywords: Al Gerhardstein; Bourke v. Beshear; Equal protection; Greg Bourke; Kim Franklin; Legal cases; Legal clients; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Michael DeLeon; Obergefell v. Hodges; Tamera Boyd Franklin

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States.; Lawyers; Obergefell, James; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:52:11 - The plaintiff couples in Bourke

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Partial Transcript: We had four couples in the first filing. We had two couples--well, three in Louisville, the one case in Shelbyville.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes the first four couples who became plaintiffs in Bourke v. Beshear and what motivated them to join the case. She also talks about receiving threats after the filing and sharing that with the couples.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Equal protection; Greg Bourke; Jim Meade; Kim Franklin; Legal cases; Legal clients; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Luke Barlowe; Marriage equality; Michael DeLeon; Obergefell v. Hodges; Paul Campion; Randy Johnson; Tamera Boyd Franklin

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States.; LGBTQ+ people; Lawyers; Louisville (Ky.); Same-sex marriage; Shelbyville (Ky.); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:57:33 - Equality activists’ response to Bourke

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Partial Transcript: You wrote a post. In one of the posts describing what it was like, you know, when you first filed, you said you were told that you couldn't win.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes why major LGBT rights groups in Kentucky discouraged her from proceeding with Bourke v. Beshear. She also talks about why she and Elliott adopted equal protection as their main, and only, argument at the district court level.

Keywords: ACLU; Activists; Advocacy; Bourke v. Beshear; Equal protection; Fairness Campaign; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Legal strategy; Marriage equality

Subjects: American Civil Liberties Union; Attorneys; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:02:49 - Out-of-state marriages and in-state marriages

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So why, why start out with, um, recognition for out-of-state first?

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she came to challenge Kentucky's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from out-of-state before confronting marriages that were done within the Commonwealth.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Equal protection; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Legal strategy; Marriage equality

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:04:12 - Legal proceedings after filing

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so we filed in Louisville.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she filed civil rights complaints in the Eastern and Western District Courts of Kentucky. She talks about the planned press conference and the settlement conferences convened by Judge John G. Heyburn II. She also shares how Judge Heyburn approached the writing of his opinion in the Bourke v. Beshear.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Equal protection; Jack Conway; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Marriage equality

Subjects: Attorneys; Beshear, Steve, 1944-; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States; Heyburn, John G. (John Gilpin), II, 1948-2015; Kentucky. Attorney General’s Office; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:12:25 - After the decision from Judge John Heyburn

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Partial Transcript: How do you find out about the, um, the decision?

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how she and associate Dawn Elliott received the judicial opinion in Bourke v. Beshear, as well as her perspective on Governor Steve Beshear's appeal of the decision. She also talks about filing Love v. Beshear and how she met one of the couples in that lawsuit, Maurice Blanchard and Dominique James.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Dominique James; Larry Ysunza; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Maurice Blanchard; Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER); Tim Love

Subjects: Attorneys; Beshear, Steve, 1944-; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States; Judicial opinions; LGBTQ+ people; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:16:49 - Expanding the legal team

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Partial Transcript: Because I, I work for myself, so I, I have, you know, I can't do this all by myself. Plus, I, I'm not a civil rights attorney. Like, by trade, that was not what I was doing originally. So I knew I needed to add some more people.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes her decision to expand the legal team for the appellate phase of the cases and how her role changed as a result. She talks about how she came to choose the firm that she ultimately worked with and the financial challenges of practicing civil rights law.

Keywords: Attorney's fees; Bourke v. Beshear; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Private practice; Solo practice

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Equality before the law--United States; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976

01:21:20 - Judge Heyburn’s decision

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Partial Transcript: Because like I said, Judge Heyburn has known for doing what's right and following the law. So it doesn't matter if it was politically whatever, you know?

Segment Synopsis: Fauver talks about how she came to view Judge Heyburn, as well as the Western District Court, as fair forums for the marriage equality cases.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Equality before the law--United States; Heyburn, John G. (John Gilpin), II, 1948-2015; Judicial opinions; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:25:25 - Choosing counsel for Sixth Circuit argument

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Partial Transcript: And when we were getting briefs from across the country, we’re, a lot of, each of us take some, so many. So we have to, because the, the person who’s going to argue has to know what the arguments are. So we decided that, we had a moot-off where, to see how people were doing.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how Bourke and Love plaintiffs and attorneys held mock arguments, or "moot-offs," a way to choose their oral advocate before the Sixth Court. She also talks about why she did not want to do the oral argument herself. Fauver says the team held more moots after the moot-off to practice their presentation, and that the Louisville Bar Association and Brandeis School of Law were some of the local organizations that were involved in the moots.

Keywords: Appellate argument; Bourke v. Beshear; Laura Landenwich; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Moot-offs; Oral advocacy; Oral argument

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Equality before the law--United States; Lawyers; Moot courts; Same-sex marriage

01:30:49 - Oral argument before Sixth Circuit panel

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Partial Transcript: My grandfather and my mom came. I had to get them passes. Because they wanted, because they're lawyers.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes the day of the oral argument before the Sixth Circuit panel hearing Bourke, Love, and all the other same-sex marriage cases from around the circuit. She talks about the argument presented by opposing counsel Leigh Latherow, the three judges on the panel, and her response when the decision came down several months later.

Keywords: Appellate argument; Bourke v. Beshear; Laura Landenwich; Legal appeals; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Leigh Latherow; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Oral advocacy; Oral arguments

Subjects: Attorneys; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Cook, Deborah L. (Deborah Louise), 1952-; Daughtrey, Martha Craig, 1942-; Equality before the law--United States; Judicial opinions; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; Sutton, Jeffrey S. (Jeffrey Stuart), 1960-; United States. Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

01:38:52 - Decision to file in the Supreme Court

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So what happens now?

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes the phone conference held by all of the attorneys to decide what to do after the Sixth Circuit's decision against them.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; En banc; Legal appeals; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Obergefell v. Hodges

Subjects: Appellate procedure; Attorneys; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Equality before the law--United States; Judicial opinions; Lawyers; Same-sex marriage; United States. Court of Appeals (6th Circuit); United States. Supreme Court

01:39:59 - Preparing the Supreme Court petition

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Partial Transcript: We only had, like, I think ten days to wrap, to draft the cert petition.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how the ten attorneys on the entire Obergefell v. Hodges team drafted the petition for the US Supreme Court to consider their cases. She also talks about the importance of the legal printer in the filing process.

Keywords: Bourke v. Beshear; Cert briefs; Cert petitions; Legal appeals; Legal printers; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Obergefell v. Hodges

Subjects: Appellate procedure; Attorneys; Certiorari; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Equality before the law--United States; Judicial opinions; Lawyers; Legal briefs; Legal petitions; Same-sex marriage; United States. Supreme Court

01:42:38 - Finding friends of the Court to file in support

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Partial Transcript: And I grew up in the Episcopal Church, and they signed off without even us asking. They did a, an amicus brief on their own without ever asking. Because I was running around asking people to join in the cases and stuff, and they did it on their own.

Segment Synopsis: Fauver describes how the Episcopal Church and others filed briefs in support of Bourke v. Beshear, Love v. Beshear, and the other parties suing for recognition of same-sex marriages. She talks about the value of such filings and her efforts to get as many people and organizations as possible to file in support of Bourke and Love. Fauver also shares how she lost clients because of these cases.

Keywords: Amicus briefs; Bourke v. Beshear; Friends of the Court; Legal appeals; Legal protections for same-sex couples; Love v. Beshear; Marriage equality; Obergefell v. Hodges

Subjects: Amici curiae; Attorneys; Civil rights; Civil rights lawyers; Episcopal Church; Equality before the law--United States; Lawyers; Legal briefs; Same-sex marriage; United States. Supreme Court