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Failed bar exam-taker apologizes to gays
By Donna Goodison  |   Thursday, January 10, 2008 
The Boston Herald

The would-be Boston lawyer who filed a lawsuit claiming he flunked the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a question on gay marriage, has issued a mea culpa to Boston’s gay community.

Stephen Dunne said he was “embarrassed” for being an “instrument of bigotry and prejudice,” in a letter to the editor and interview in the Jan. 3 edition of Bay Windows, a Boston newspaper serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered readers.

“By filing a misguided federal lawsuit . . . in respect to the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, I have regrettably perpetuated intolerance and animosity towards my fellow Americans,” Dunne said in his letter. “My religiously based discrimination of gay people was callous and diametrically opposed to America’s core principles of freedom and equality.”

Dunne filed a federal lawsuit in June against the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners and Supreme Judicial Court, seeking to prohibit the gay marriage question from being used to compute his bar exam score and from being included on future exams. He argued that answering the “patently offensive and morally repugnant” question, which involved a married lesbian couple who was divorcing, would imply his support of gay marriage and parenting, in violation of his Irish Catholic beliefs and First Amendment rights. He also challenged the constitutionality of the SJC’s 2003 ruling under which Massachusetts became the nation’s first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The case drew international attention, and Dunne drew the scorn of the gay community and some legal experts. He eventually asked the court to dismiss the case in September, saying the question’s exclusion from the July bar exam was suitable “corrective action.”

In Bay Windows, Dunne called his lawsuit a “lashing out” as a result of failing the exam. “. . . I am particularly regretful of my actions towards those gay and lesbian friends that I befriended and studied alongside during my three years of law school,” he said. “You are all wonderful people and loving parents . . .”

An Irish immigrant who’s now a U.S. citizen, Dunne said he came to see parallels in the discrimination of gay people and that faced by the Irish when they first came to America.