[UPDATED: Coroner Rules Suicide] Katherine Darmer, Chapman Professor and Gay Rights Champion, Falls From a Building in a Possible Suicide
UPDATE, FEB. 22, 3:46 P.M.: The Orange County coroner's office has ruled Katherine Darmer's death a suicide. Questions remain as to why she would want to end her life.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 21, 12:32 P.M.: Katherine Darmer, a Chapman law professor and a founding member of the Orange County Equality Coalition (OCEC), has died at the age of 47. At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, she fell from an Irvine parking garage in what police are investigating as a suicide. An official cause of death has yet to be determined.
Darmer was hailed as a brilliant and inspirational professor, and a fierce advocate for equality. In 2008, as Proposition 8 aimed to keep same-sex couples from marrying, she helped launch OCEC, which united Orange County's gay community.
The Weekly has always witnessed Darmer to be passionate and sharp, whether debating John Yoo on waterboarding or standing up for a teenage girl who was bullied for helping stage the musical Rent at Corona del Mar High School.
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' activist Dan Choi wrote a letter to the Orange County Register about Darmer's impact on his life:
Professor Darmer was the first lawyer to reach out during my DADT fight.
She was college roommates with NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and made a point of introducing me to her very early on (in both of our journeys) and this had an indelible impact on our fight to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. I called Katherine often, before trials, for advice on printing "Don't Hide" shirts, or for representing myself in court.
She always had a calming and wise voice to advise and encourage. I am very sad to hear of her sudden passing. . . . Katherine has a very important place in my journey and heart.
A 2009 Weekly cover story quoted Darmer in a speech at an OCEC-sponsored event at Chapman University, reflecting on the year since Prop. 8.
I'm pretty open about my views on these issues, and my issues are not the same as everyone at Chapman or here in Orange County. People often say to me, "Why are you in Orange County? Why are you at Chapman?" And in all honesty, what I want to say to you is this is where there's work to be done.
It is here, in Orange County, that we have to change hearts and minds. Think of it as a challenge. Here, you can make a difference--and we have made a difference.
In an email to members, OCEC wrote this about its "Lady of Justice":
If you knew Katherine, then there's no need to explain what's been lost. If you didn't, then know this: She fought for you even though she did not know you. Her's was the voice we heard that spoke against marriage inequality, gave us hope and guidance for the future, and helped form a better community.
She will be missed.
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