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 Eric Gormly

My journey toward the practice of law – LGBT law in particular – was not exactly a straight course (no pun intended).

I began my professional life as a television journalist, working my way up through several markets in Texas and Missouri.  The stories that give me the most satisfaction were those in which I showed the plight ordinary people who were trying to claim basic rights and live their lives.  Those who were trying to right the wrongs that society may have handed them. Those who simply wanted to have the same chances and be treated in the same way that anyone else would be.  All too often, that meant overcoming bigotry and prejudice, much of which was embedded in our laws and our system of justice.

I had spent a lot of my youth and early adulthood involved in theatre and the performing arts, which gave me the chance to build relationships and become close to people within the LGBT community.  Being raised in North Dallas by progressive parents, Martin Luther King’s statement on judging people by “the content of their character” became a household mantra.  I was taught to see the value in others based on their humanity, first and foremost, and that stayed with me.

I also saw the intense and destructive struggles that friends and acquaintances who were “different” were going through, and it disturbed me.  One of my closest friends in high school, who was also my debate partner, was a declared Republican, born-again Christian, and raised by an ultra-conservative mother.

He was also gay.  The self-loathing and denial and desperation to purge same-sex attraction led to depression, excessive drinking, and difficulty finding focus in his life.  I lost track of him, then learned of his death from an AIDS-related illness nearly a year after it happened.  His conservative mother had kept the burial private, declaring she did not want “any of those people” to attend.  I realized that I was one of “those people.”

Life continued to show me the injustice and utter unfairness of such attitudes.

It continued to show me how the fears and insecurities and hatred of others – especially those in positions of power – could damage and destroy the lives of wonderful, worthy human beings.

I shifted careers from TV news to academics, teaching at universities and writing research articles.

While working on a Ph.D. in Austin, I experienced something that would change my life forever.  Returning to my apartment after class one evening, two men forced me to the ground, and one held a gun to the back of my head as the other robbed me.  I had no money or anything of value, which too often resulted in angry attackers shooting their victims.  I was certain that would be my fate, and was somehow able to find a way to escape.  Physically, I was fine – but it left a profound impact on me.  I began to understand that life is precious, it can be taken in an instant, and all we have is this moment.  Because life is sacred, I realized that the biggest sin I or anyone could commit would be to live a life of denial and self-loathing because of who I might be. Only through embracing and appreciating who a person is, regardless of sexual orientation, or gendered identity, or any other human distinction, can that person live a live of meaning and fulfillment.  To do otherwise would be to waste the fullness of your life.  And failing to extend the same unconditional acceptance to others would be helping to deny that in them, as well.

I entered my next career as a university professor.  Through that work, I saw a different sort of potential to reach out to others and to have a positive effect on their lives.  And while I enjoyed it, certain aspects of the university system left me ultimately unsatisfied with what I was doing.  Despite the forward thinkers, and the chance to work with and counsel students – many of them struggling with

LGBT issues – something was missing.  I was still searching and not quite finding.

With one exception. While on faculty at Arizona State University, I found Leah – a beautiful, amazing woman who captured my heart completely and with whom I fell desperately in love.  Leah was “the one.” We married in Arizona, then returned to my home town of Dallas when I took a teaching position here.

Leah shared my passion for progressive ideals and non-judgmentally seeing the value of people.  She, like my parents, understood the meaning of unconditional love, toward me and toward others.

I was increasingly restless and still looking for “the right career” when I saw that SMU’s School of Law had re-started its evening program.  That was all I needed.

Constitutional law and litigation held a special fascination for me, as did entertainment law and intellectual property.  But the area of law where I discovered a true passion was LGBT law.  Without any distinct coursework in that area, I patched together what I gleaned from various courses and a growing range of sources, and I created research projects that would allow me to learn as much as possible.  Once I was out of school, I knew that the only way I could be certain to develop an LGBT practice would be to start my own.

Which is what I did.  After having embraced the LGBT community for so much of my life, I claimed the community as my own.  I am proud to do so.  And perhaps for the first time in my life, considering the various careers I have had, all the p

ieces of the puzzle are there.  And Leah is a part of it as well, applying her PR background by directing the firm’s community and client relations.

Early in my life, I heard the phrase, “doing well by doing good.”  I pondered its meaning and wondered if it might be possible to achieve.  I can say with certainty that it is. I am living proof.  So, after a long and rather winding path, I arrived at this point.  And although I was a relatively late arrival to this leg of my journey, I look forward to much that lies ahead.

Eric Gormly practices at The Gormly Law Firm, PLLC, based in Dallas.  He earned his J.D. from the SMU Dedman School of Law, and his B.J. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin.

Eric practices LGBT law, with a focus on family law, estate issues, constitutional rights and civil litigation.

Eric can be reached at 214-242-0596, or at ekg@thegormlylawfirm.com.