Published: Sept. 28, 2021 By

Suzette Malveaux, professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School, recently learned just how impactful sharing your own personal story can be.

Suzette Malveaux, left, and Catherine Smith, right, pose in front of the Denver skyline

Suzette Malveaux, left, and Catherine Smith, right, in front of the Denver skyline

Suzette Malveaux pictured with various Colorado Law students and faculty

Suzette Malveaux (center) with various Colorado Law students and faculty

Earlier this year, Malveaux and her partner, Catherine Smith—professor of law at University of Denver—shared their journey as a “legal power couple” on Colorado Public Radio. They opened up not only about their work in civil rights and social justice but also about their personal lives—how they met, life’s challenges and the lessons they’ve each learned along the way.

“Truth be told, we were both worried that no one would be interested, that it would be too boring,” Malveaux, who also directs Colorado Law’s Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law, joked. “It was the first time we’d ever done anything like this, and we didn’t really know if it would resonate with people.”

But it did.

On Sept. 18, Malveaux and Smith accepted the Gerald A. Gerash Advocacy Award presented by The Center on Colfax at the center’s 45th anniversary gala. The award honors those who demonstrate a history of advocacy for the LGBTQ community.

“Shortly after our interview with CPR, the center reached out to us to share how this had impacted and inspired young LGBTQ youth across the state,” Malveaux said. “It was a great reminder of the importance of giving voice to our lived experiences.”

Advocacy, support and community are central components of The Center and of co-founder Gerald “Jerry” Gerash’s work. Gerash made a name for himself when he led a protest against the treatment of and discrimination against Denver’s gay community in 1973 that led the city to become the first in the nation to repeal anti-gay criminal laws. He helped establish the center in 1976, which is now the largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain region.

As a civil rights attorney, Malveaux has spent much of her professional life serving as a voice for those who were struggling to find one. She represented victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and represented more than 1.5 million women in Wal-Mart vs. Dukes, the largest employment discrimination class action lawsuit in the United States. Smith also has a prolific civil rights and scholarly background, particularly in cases involving same sex marriage, children’s rights and environmental justice.

Together the couple has used their experience and expertise to educate and inform future generations of civil rights lawyers. 

“Just telling your story and leaning into your truth can really help others,” Malveaux said.

Students, colleagues and administrators from both universities attended the gala to celebrate Malveaux and Smith’s honor.

“We are immensely proud of Professor Malveaux for winning the Gerald A. Gerash Advocacy Award, and we could not be happier that she received this honor,” Colorado Law Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss said. “Her dedication and commitment to others, along with her scholarly and other professional achievements, make her one of the shining lights of Colorado Law, of the state and of our nation.”