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Professor remembered as a legal ally

Mary 'Katherine' Baird Darmer, 47, taught at Chapman University and was known as a supporter to same-sex marriage.

February 21, 2012|By Lauren Williams

Friends of a Chapman University law professor who died after falling from a parking structure last week remembered her as a legal ally to supporters of same-sex marriage.

Mary "Katherine" Baird Darmer was one of the founding members and served as the legal chairwoman of the Orange County Equality Coalition, providing legal counsel to those working to repeal Proposition 8.

Darmer, who lived in Newport Beach, fell from a parking structure in the 19000 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Irvine on Friday. She died at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana about an hour later.

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Her death is being investigated as a suicide. She was 47.

Darmer, who worked as a full-time faculty member at Chapman since 2000, was an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan before moving to Newport with her husband, Roman, according to a wedding announcement published in The New York Times. She was a mother of two children, ages 8 and 11.

In addition to being a devoted activist, Darmer was passionate about being a good mother, friend and neighbor, said Janine Helman, who lives nearby.

"She was always the first to volunteer for our neighborhood's swim team, in her children's classroom and in their numerous activities," Helman said. "I know one of her favorite things, as was mine, was to join in our monthly 'Port Stirling' birthday dinners, where the street moms got together and treated one another to a fun night out.

"We had a joke on our street that Katherine was truly the most interesting person we had ever met. There is no doubt that was true."

A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Darmer's legal opinions and scholarship was published in numerous journals, according to her entry on Chapman's website.

Friend Laura Kanter said she remembers that on the day that the coalition was formed, Darmer stood up among the crowd of 100 people to offer her legal expertise on overturning Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.

"At that time we were in so much pain. [We thought], 'How can she understand; why would she want to give her time and expertise to us?'" Kanter said. "While we were all reeling from the pain of Prop 8 … she knew long before and throughout the entire time that we were already equal, and those rights were fundamentally ours.

"We all deserved those rights, and she knew that. It was so intrinsic to her. And that's what she represented to me."

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