When someone thinks of a law professor, Preston Mitchum isn't necessarily who might first come to mind. Proudly and unapologetically Black and queer, Mitchum is devoted to living as the image and example that too often the Black LGBTQ+ community doesn’t get to see.
Mitchum is the Director of Policy at URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, where he shapes reproductive justice policies from the local to the federal levels. He’s also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center teaching LGBT Health Law and Policy.
A wonk’s wonk, Mitchum says while it’s proper to celebrate the historic victory of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, they’ve got much work to do because it’s not enough to just reverse the most egregious moves of the past administration. This current leadership must be about the business of justice.
“The Trump Administration was so outlandish that some people might be satisfied to go back to the status quo," Mitchum said. "But 'normal' has never saved the lives of Black and queer people."
Mitchum makes it clear that he believes this post-Trump era offers a great opportunity to think broadly about how to bring justice and freedom to more American systems and the people they’re designed to serve.
“The Biden-Harris Administration should respond to efforts related to police defunding. We need to have honest conversations about what that could look like at federal level," he explained. "What could it mean to invest in local communities and the agencies that serve them?”
Mitchum calls out what he sees as a deep divide between the way policing is carried out by the race of those being policed.
“We saw on January 6, an insurrectionist attack that was overly funded," he continued. "But we also saw the injustices inflicted toward legitimate protestors all through the summer. We need to ask what does reform of the criminal punishment system look like?”
He also names campaign finance reform, statehood for Washington D.C. and its more than 700,000 residents, the enforcement of voting rights and ending voter suppression, and also says that there are still old issues that require attention.
“What we didn’t see was much talk about the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funding for abortion except to save the mother’s life, or in cases of rape or incest.) Our communities have pushed for years for a clear and concise repeal of the racist Hyde," he said. "This law overwhelmingly affects communities of color and poor communities.”
He reminds people daily that reproductive justice, issues of bodily autonomy and the right to choose are rights that the LGBTQ+ community have long fought for alongside straight and cisgender people.
He says, “This administration has the chance to change policy and change law such that the people who have been targeted by the last administration- immigrants, LGBTQ+, and women can have relief.”
Photo Courtesy: Preston Mitchum