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Professor doubles as civil union activist

Biology professor Anna Sher stands up for what she believes in. Her parents protested actively against the Vietnam War, helping her understand the importance of defending one’s beliefs.

Sher has been teaching conservation biology at DU since 2003 and was the Director of Research and Conservation at the Denver Botanical Gardens before coming to DU. In addition to Sher’s role as an expert in biology, she is also actively involved in campaigning for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights.

Sher first became involved with LGBTQ activism when she was a freshman at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. Sher, who came out the summer before starting college, said she immediately sought the LGBTQ organization on campus.

“I quickly learned about the issues facing the community, on campus and beyond, and that I could make a difference,” said Sher. “Most importantly, I learned that the personal is political, and that sometimes the most radical thing you can do is to simply be honest and open about who you are.”

Sher seeks to be an activist on DU’s campus simply by being herself and keeping herself informed by staying on the list-serves for various LGBTQ clubs and groups on campus, including the faculty and grad LGBTQ groups.

“My main activism on campus is to be myself. I have a wedding photo of myself and my partner on my desk, and always have some sticker or sign on my door on LGBT equality among all the ones about flowers and invasive plants, my research focus,” said Sher.

Sher and her partner have testified in favor of civil unions bills in Colorado both this year and last year. While both bills have failed, Sher continues to campaign in favor of a civil unions bill. She stated that her current role as an activist is being a “bridge to understanding.”

She and her partner have also appeared in multiple publications and media in order to support civil unions. Sher said they have been on the cover of the Denver Post twice, interviewed on Fox and Channel 9 News, on the radio, and featured in dozens of other papers, websites and blogs, including The Huffington Post, Washington Post and Seattle PI.

“As someone who has been in a committed relationship for over a decade and who intends to spend my life with this person, as someone who is raising a child in this union, this legislation is immensely personal and important to me,” said Sher.

Sher stated that she and her partner have already spent thousands of dollars obtaining the legal protections that would be inherent if they had a civil union, including family medical insurance and designated beneficiary agreements.

Sher said they have received support from DU because the university offers domestic partnership benefits. There are drawbacks, however.

“Because our union isn’t legally recognized, I am taxed on my partner’s health insurance benefit as if it were extra income.  Fortunately,  this cost is now off-set a bit by lowering my deductible,” said Sher. “DU is under no legal obligation to do this, and many employers do not – one of the many reasons why we need civil unions for our community.”

The most recent proposed civil unions bill made it farther than the one introduced last year; however it stalled in the House when politicians failed to make a decision on it before midnight last Tuesday.

“I am disappointed and frustrated, but this is just a tiny speed bump. We know that there will be equality in the end; it’s just a matter of time. We will just keep working until it is done,” said Sher.

For Sher, the proof of progress can be seen in remarks made by President Obama last week. He became the first sitting president in history to explicitly support same-sex marriage.

“It marks a turning point with regard to public support of our community,” said Sher.  “Slowly but surely, there is change. We will all look back at this time in history in the not too distant future and wonder what all the fuss was about.”

 

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About Author: Skye Savage

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