For one Boilermaker, simply studying history is not enough – Laura Blackburn feels the need to change it.
Laura Blackburn, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, has been a key activist in creating change regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Boilers at Purdue. Because of her work, there is now an LGBTQ center on campus, a non-discrimination policy covering LGBTQ issues and a LGBTQ minor becoming available next fall.
“I think that the University is becoming a more accepting place of these issues,” Blackburn said. “I have been able to see much change in the past three years, but there is still a need to educate others.”
The LGBTQ Resource Center, located in the Engineering Administration building, Room 301, opened in July 2012. Counselors are available to help LGBTQ youth once a week and it is a place of education for anyone who wants to know more about human issues. According to Blackburn, it is a place to be safe with who you are.
“Laura was born to be an activist,” said Lowell Kane, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center. “Her involvement at Purdue has been so immense that she was selected to be a student representative on the selection committee to actually fill my position. She was a part of the group that authored a five-year plan for Purdue towards making the campus more LGBTQ inclusive.”
When President Obama was elected for the first time, Blackburn was volunteering in California as an advocate of the “No on Proposition 8” campaign. Proposition 8 was an amendment to the California Constitution that defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. When the results for the Proposition came in, Blackburn was torn. She was happy to see Obama being elected, yet upset to see something so important to her be unsuccessful.
“LGBTQ rights are a part of the larger issue of human rights,” said Blackburn. “Just as when racism was being fought in the 1950s, discrimination (against) LGBTQ people is being fought now. It’s the civil rights movement of this era.”
Blackburn also is a commissioner for the West Lafayette Human Relations Commission. Appointed by Mayor Dennis in June and confirmed by the city council, Blackburn ensures the rights of people in the city as well as on campus.
“To me, it’s about making sure that people are treated fairly,” said Blackburn. “I took an internship with my hero, now Sen. Tammy Baldwin, earlier in college. It was an honor to work in Washington D.C. and see someone that I admire being true to herself and to her people. I think I will run for office someday in the future like her, but I don’t know when; timing is so key.”
For Kane, seeing Blackburn contribute so much to the LGBTQ community has been an honor.
“It is my tremendous hope that we have the privilege of keeping Laura at Purdue for a few more years if she does grad school,” said Kane. “Laura Blackburn is an activist that deals with opposition by changing it. The LGBTQ community at Purdue is changing for the better, but there is still a long way to go.”