The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School wants to express our gratitude for the communities that support our work and who engage in our programming. As we approach #GivingTuesday 2018, Tuesday, November 27th, we hope you will consider including the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law in your year-end giving.

In these times especially, we are particularly grateful to the grantors that have supported our work in the past, and to the alumni and student communities that support us, and inspire us to pursue research and develop programming that focuses on critical issues on the front lines of gender justice, LGBTQ rights, and the rights and experiences of multiply marginalized individuals and communities.

As we enter the holiday season, we ask our constituencies to think about us on #GivingTuesday. Our events, programs, and operations are predominantly supported by grants and through the generosity of individual donors, and we are committed to providing diverse, quality program to our communities free of charge, so our work remains accessible to all. With a small staff comprising 4 full-time employees, any support we receive is an enormous help to maintaining our operations and enabling us to continue our work.

If you would like to make a gift to the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, you may do so via the Columbia Law School Giving Portal, or by sending a donation via mail.

To make a gift to the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law via the Columbia Law School Giving portal, navigate to the portal, here: https://law.givenow.columbia.edu/#, and enter the amount of your gift.  On the drop-down menu, for the “division,” select “Other – Law School” and type “Center for Gender & Sexuality Law” in the “Allocation Instructions” field.

To send a donation via mail, make a check or Money Order out to Columbia University in the City of New York. In the “Memo” line, note “The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.” Donations sent via mail should be sent to the attention of the Center’s Associate Director, Elizabeth Boylan, at the following address:

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street, Mail Code E-9
New York, NY 10027

Thank you once again for all of your ongoing support.  We hope you will consider including the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law in your contributions this #GivingTuesday.


With sincere regards,

Professor Katherine Franke
Director, The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Elizabeth Boylan
Associate Director, The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Elizabeth Reiner Platt
Director, The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Kira Shepherd
Director, The Racial Justice Project

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Press Advisory: Columbia Law Professor Files Amicus Briefs on Religious Liberty Claims Raised in Federal Prosecutions of Activists in Arizona Who Left Water and Food In Desert For Migrants

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Boylan, eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

Access PDFs of the Amicus Briefs, here:
Amicus brief in United States of America vs. Caitlin Persis Deighan, et al.

Amicus brief in United States of America vs. Natalee Renee Hoffman, et al.

* * * * *

On November 13th, Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, submitted amicus briefs on behalf of seven scholars of religious liberty law in two cases in which the federal government is prosecuting members of the Tucson-based group No More Deaths/No Más Muertes. The defendants are migrants’ rights activists who are being prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for leaving water and food for migrants in the Cabrieza Pietra National Wildlife Area, a federally controlled refuge in the Southern Arizona desert that is so hot and dry that the human remains of migrants are frequently found there. The brief provides guidance to the federal court on how to examine the activists’ claim that their criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice substantially burdens their sincere religious belief in the sanctity of human life and that they must come to the aiding people in dire distress. The brief supports neither party in the case but rather seeks to provide the court with the proper framework within which to consider the defendants’ motion to dismiss grounded in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The brief was signed by Professor Katherine Franke, the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Faculty Director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia University; Barbara A. Atwood, the Mary Anne Richey Professor of Law Emerita, and Director of the Family and Juvenile Law Certificate Program at the James E. Rogers College of Law of the University of Arizona; Caroline Mala Corbin, a Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law; Shefali Milczarek-Desai, the Director of the Workers’ Rights Clinic at the James E. Rogers College of Law of the University of Arizona; Micah Schwartzman, the Joseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law, and Director of the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy at the University of Virginia School of Law; Andrew Silverman, the Joseph M. Livermore Professor of Law Emeritus at the University of Arizona; and Nelson Tebbe, a Professor of Law at Cornell University.

“This case raises important questions regarding the use of RFRA as a defense in a criminal prosecution,” said Professor Katherine Franke, the principal author of the brief. “As legal scholars of religious liberty it is our concern that RFRA is interpreted consistently across contexts where sincerely held religious beliefs are substantially burdened by government action. We note in the brief that the Justice Department has taken a position in this case that is much less protective of religious liberty than it has in cases where the underlying issues are more aligned with the administration’s political agenda,” continued Franke.

“Ironically, the arguments made by attorneys working for the Justice Department provide greater protection to bighorn sheep in Southern Arizona than to human beings, whether they be migrants at risk of death or people of faith coming to their aid,” noted Professor Franke.

Last week, Professor Franke submitted an amicus brief on behalf of scholars of religious liberty in U.S. v. Kelley, a case in which the federal government is prosecuting Catholic anti-nuclear activists who staged a mock disarmament of nuclear weapons at a Naval installation in Georgia. The activists, members of the group Kings Bay Plowshares, argue that criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice substantially burdens their sincerely held religious belief that nuclear weapons are evil.

* * * * *
Access PDFs of the Amicus Briefs, here:

Amicus brief in United States of America vs. Caitlin Persis Deighan, et al.

Amicus brief in United States of America vs. Natalee Renee Hoffman, et al.

New Report Highlights Dangers of Religious Exemption Laws for LGBT Elders


Posted on December 15th, 2017 by Elizabeth Boylan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Friday, December 15, 2017

Subject:  New Report Highlights Dangers of Religious Exemption Laws for LGBT Elders

From: The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP), Columbia Law School

Contact: Liz Boylan | eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

* * * * *

[New York] The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) at Columbia Law School, and SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders, released a new report, Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services. To download the report, visit http://www.lgbtmap.org/dignity-denied-lgbt-older-adults.

The report highlights the unique ways in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) elders are harmed by a growing number of laws and policies aimed at exempting religious organizations and individuals from following nondiscrimination and civil rights laws and policies.

By 2050, the number of people older than 65 will double to 83.7 million, and there are currently more than 2.7 million LGBT adults who are 50 years or older living across the country. LGBT elders face unique challenges to successful aging stemming from current and past structural and legal discrimination because of their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their age, and other factors like race. These risk factors are exacerbated by recent efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to allow those with religious or moral objections to be exempt from non-discrimination laws, leaving LGBT older adults vulnerable to increased risk for discrimination and mistreatment.

According to the report released by MAP, PRPCP at Columbia Law School, and SAGE, religiously affiliated organizations provide a majority of the services LGBT elders rely on for their most basic needs. LGBT older adults, like many older Americans in the United States, access a network of service providers for health care, community programming and congregate meals, food and income assistance, and housing, ranging from independent living to skilled in-home nursing. Approximately 85% of nonprofit continuing-care retirement communities are affiliated with a religion. Religiously affiliated facilities also provide the greatest number of affordable housing units that serve low-income seniors. Finally, 14% of hospitals in the United States are religiously affiliated, accounting for 17% of all the country’s hospital beds.

While many of these facilities provide quality care for millions of older adults, there exists a coordinated nationwide effort to pass religious exemption laws and policies, and file lawsuits that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government contractors and grantees to use religion as a basis for discriminating against a range of communities, including LGBT elders.

Dignity Denied: Religious Exemptions and LGBT Elder Services outlines myriad federal and state efforts to allow individuals, businesses, and organizations to opt out of following nondiscrimination laws as long as they cite a religious objection. While most providers will do the right thing when it comes to serving their clients, some will only do so when required by law. The report concludes that because so many service providers are religiously affiliated, these laws pose a considerable threat to the health and well-being of LGBT older adults.

In conjunction with the release of the report, a panel discussion is being held on Friday, December 15, at Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University featuring speakers from Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, The LGBT & HIV Project, American Civil Liberties Union, The Movement Advancement Project, The New Jewish Home, New York City Commission on Human Rights, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, Columbia Law School, the Union Theological Seminary, and SAGE.

Watch the discussion live on SAGE’s Facebook page at SAGEUSA Facebook, starting at 12 noon on December 15. For more information about the event, visit http://www.utsnyc.edu/SAGE.

“This report and the amicus brief SAGE filed in the Masterpiece Cake case clearly demonstrate that personal religious beliefs should never be a license to discriminate against LGBT people or anybody else,” said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE. “That’s why we are bringing together aging experts, religious leaders, and our elders, to expose the dangers that so-called ‘religious exemptions’ pose for LGBT elders who need care and services. We must not allow the door of a nursing home or other critical care provider to slam in LGBT elders’ faces just because of who they are and whom they love.”

“This important report reveals the many ways in which the privatization of elder services, largely to conservative religiously affiliated providers, leaves LGBT older adults no choice but to obtain care in facilities that do not welcome them,” observed Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Faculty Director of PRPCP at Columbia University. “The many LGBT elders who are adherents of faith-based traditions themselves suffer a special indignity when they are forced to seek care in settings that deny the dignity of both their LGBT identity and their faith-based beliefs.”

“LGBT older adults already are more likely to be isolated and vulnerable. It is unconscionable that state and federal governments are working to allow providers to deny critical health care services and vital social supports to LGBT older adults simply because of who they are,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “Imagine how much harder it would be to reach out for help if you knew the organizations that were supposed to help you could legally reject you, and the government would back them up.”

* * * * *

The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight, and analysis that help speed equality for LGBT people. MAP works collaboratively with LGBT organizations, advocates and funders, providing information, analysis and resources that help coordinate and strengthen efforts for maximum impact. MAP’s policy research informs the public and policymakers about the legal and policy needs of LGBT people and their families.  Learn more at www.lgbtmap.org.

The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at Columbia Law School’s (PRPCP) mission is to bring legal academic expertise to bear on the multiple contexts in which religious liberty rights conflict with or undermine other fundamental rights to equality and liberty. We undertake approaches to the developing law of religion that both respects the importance of religious liberty and recognizes the ways in which too broad an accommodation of these rights threatens Establishment Clause violations and can unsettle a proper balance with other competing fundamental rights. Our work takes the form of legal research and scholarship, public policy interventions, advocacy support, and academic and media publications.

SAGE is the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. Headquartered in New York City, with staff across the country, SAGE also coordinates a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org.

 

Press Advisory:
Columbia Law Professor files Amicus Brief in Federal Prosecution of Catholic Anti-Nuclear Activists in Georgia

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Boylan | eboyla@law.columbia.edu | 212.854.0167

_____________________________________________________________________

On November 6th, Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University in the City of New York, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of scholars of religious liberty law in a case in which the federal government is prosecuting a group of Catholic peace activists, United States of America vs. Stephen Kelley et al.  The brief provides guidance to the federal court on how to examine the claims of the activists, the Kings Bay Plowshares, that criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice substantially burdens their sincerely held religious belief that nuclear weapons are evil. The brief supports neither party in the case, but rather seeks to provide the court with the proper framework within which to consider the defendants’ motion to dismiss grounded in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  Professors Micah J. Schwartzman, the Joseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and Nelson Tebbe, a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, joined the brief.

“This case raises important questions regarding the use of RFRA as a defense in a criminal prosecution,” said Professor Katherine Franke, the principal author of the brief. “As legal scholars of religious liberty it is our concern that RFRA is interpreted consistently across contexts where sincerely held religious beliefs are substantially burdened by government action. We note in the brief that the Justice Department has taken a position in this case that is much less protective of religious liberty than it has in cases where the underlying issues are more aligned with the administration’s political agenda,” continued Franke.

Earlier this year, Professor Franke submitted an amicus brief on behalf of scholars of religious liberty in U.S. v. Warren, a case in which a member of the humanitarian group No More Deaths in Southern Arizona is being prosecuted by the federal government for aiding migrants crossing the desert. In that case, Scott Warren claims that his actions were compelled by a sincerely held religious belief in coming to the aid of persons in great distress, and that prosecution for a felony by the U.S. Justice Department substantially burdened his religious beliefs.

__________________________________________________________________________

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, where she also directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law and is the faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. She is a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and the Center for Palestine Studies.  She is among the nation’s leading scholars writing on law, religion and rights, drawing from feminist, queer, and critical race theory.

_____________________________________________________________________

Access a .pdf of the Amicus Brief, here: https://bit.ly/2yY4ob5.

Professor Suzanne Goldberg argues ban relies on sex-based stereotypes that have been rejected by courts for decades.

Cross-Posted from the Columbia Law School Office of Public Affairs

New York, Oct. 29, 2018—The Trump administration’s efforts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military—which lower courts have so far prohibited from taking effect—are similar to previous bans on service by people of color, women, and gays and lesbians and have no basis in the law, according to an amicus brief filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic in a case challenging the ban.

The brief, filed on behalf of various women’s rights groups, comes just days after reports that the Trump administration is seeking to define gender by a person’s genitalia at birth, with disputes about identity to be settled using genetic testing. The American Psychological Association immediately dismissed that proposal as failing “to recognize decades of scientific research.

“This case comes at a critical time in our nation,” said Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.  “As transgender individuals are under threat from the federal government’s many efforts to deny their existence, it is essential to remember that US courts have – for nearly a half-century – forbidden government from discriminating based on sex, and that this protection should cover transgender individuals who do not conform to gender stereotypes.”The clinic’s brief comes in a case called Jane Doe 2 v. Donald J. Trump, filed on behalf of transgender people serving in the military by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has twice preliminarily enjoined the ban while the case proceeds. In her amicus brief, Goldberg argues a February 2018 memorandum by U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis to implement Trump’s policy directives relies on “improper assumptions,” “overbroad generalizations,” and “traditional views of men and women.”

In concluding that transgender service members are “incompatible with sex-based standards,” Goldberg writes, Mattis “misses the point that current and aspiring transgender service members do not challenge the application or importance of these standards to military readiness; to the contrary, they seek to serve within these existing standards.”

Goldberg cites numerous cases in which disparate treatment has been rejected by the courts, including Sessions v. Morales-Santana, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a citizenship provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act treating mothers and fathers differently violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause.  In that case, the Court relied on another amicus brief filed by Professor Goldberg and the Clinic.

“In short, assumptions that men must be one way and women another, even when rooted in traditional views and practices such as those set out in the Mattis Report, are not sufficient grounds for governmental denial of opportunities to men and women who do not conform to those assumptions but are otherwise qualified and prepared to meet all relevant requirements,” Goldberg writes.

In August, Kollar-Kotelly upheld her own previous preliminary injunction in the case in light of Mattis’ plan—which would disqualify anyone who has undergone gender transition and most people with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Because the Mattis ban would allow people who identify as transgender to serve “in their biological sex,” the Trump administration argued the plaintiffs no longer have standing to sue. Kollar-Kotelly rejected that argument.

“Mr. Kohere is transgender,” she wrote of one of the plaintiffs, using italics for emphasis. “That means that he does not identify with his biological sex. To serve in his biological sex would be to suppress his identity. To do so would be a harm in and of itself, sufficient to confer standing. The fact that a plaintiff can avoid the effect of a discriminatory policy by renouncing the characteristic that leads to the discrimination in the first place does not mean that the plaintiff lacks standing.”

Goldberg is one of the country’s foremost experts on gender and sexuality law. Before joining Columbia Law School, where she is co-director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, she was a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal and, in that capacity, served as co-counsel for the defendants in Lawrence v. Texas.

In July, Goldberg and the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic at Columbia Law School filed an amicus brief in a separate challenge to the transgender military ban proceeding in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Joining Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic on the brief in the Jane Doe 2 case are: California Women Lawyers; The Center for Reproductive Rights; The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund; Equal Rights Advocates; Legal Voice; National Association of Women Lawyers; The National Organization for Women Foundation; The National Partnership for Women & Families; and The National Women’s Law Center.

Columbia Law clinic students Samantha Briggs’19 and Idun Klakegg’20 assisted on the brief.  Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman attorneys Cynthia C. Robertson, Robert C.K. Boyd, and William C. Miller also served as counsel on the brief.

Fall Visitors with the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law


Posted on September 20th, 2018 by Elizabeth Boylan

Cross-posted to the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law Medium Page

This Fall, the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law is pleased to host Joseph Fischel and Emily Stolzenberg as Visiting Faculty in Residence at Columbia Law School. Professors Fischel and Stolzenberg will be participating in Center programming, and working on their own independent research while in Residence with the Center.  Both are joining the Center as part of Columbia University’s Visiting Scholars Program. Professor Fischel is on-site with us in Jerome Greene Hall, in Office 627; Professor Stolzenberg will be working off-site, primarily.

Bios for both of our Scholars follow below, along with links to their CVs:

Joseph Fischel
Curriculum Vitae

Joseph Fischel is a theorist of social and sexual justice. His research on the regulation of sex, gender, and sexuality is informed by normative political theory, queer studies, and critical race and feminist legal theory. His first two books interrogate consent as the magnetizing, dominant metric of modern sex law and late modern sexual ethics. Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) argues that the sociolegal figures of the recidivistic sex offender, the innocent child and the heroic homosexual invest consent with its normative power while obfuscating more pervasive but less perceptible forms of sexual injury and gendered violence. Fischel’s second book, Screw Consent: A Better Politics of Sexual Justice (University of California Press, 2019) explores cases of atypical and non-normative sex in order to scaffold a sexual ethics less beholden to consent for what we think of as the “ordinary” couple form. His current research project, Against Nature: A Solicitation to Sodomitical Justice (forthcoming in the Sexuality Series of Temple University Press) examines the life and afterlife of sodomy law in New Orleans and beyond to reconsider the centrality of sex—in contradisctinction to race, gender or sexuality—for liberal and neoliberal governance.

Emily Stolzenberg
Curriculum Vitae

Emily Stolzenberg returns as a Visiting Scholar to Columbia Law School, where she was previously an Associate in Law and Lecturer in Law. Her research seeks to reconcile individual autonomy with family obligation and currently focuses on how to fairly and efficiently define financial obligations for a diverse array of families. Stolzenberg’s recent article, “The New Family Freedom,” published in the Boston College Law Review, analyzed how an emergent, libertarian vision of autonomy as property rights delegitimizes attempts to impose financial obligations in nonmarital and post-divorce families. Her current project, “Properties of Intimacy,” argues that family law is even more protective of title-holders’ ability to exclude others than are property law and theory and that a different approach to intimates’ property disputes could yield fairer distributions upon family dis­solution.

Stolzenberg graduated from Yale Law School in 2012, having earned a master’s in political theory from the University of Oxford in 2009. After law school, she worked with the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren Program and Elder Law Initiative in Charlottesville, VA. From 2013-2014, Stolzenberg served as a law clerk to Judge Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She then practiced family law at Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP in Washington, DC. Stolzenberg is a member of the New York and Washington, DC, bars.

Reversing Roe v. Wade Won’t Help Republicans


Posted on July 6th, 2018 by Elizabeth Boylan

Reversing Roe v. Wade Won’t Help Republicans

Overturning the landmark 1973 ruling, as seems more and more likely, might take away a powerful tool for energizing conservative voters — and it might motivate liberal ones.

by Carol Sanger
Originally Published in The New York Times, July 5, 2018

* * * * *

Overturning Roe? Watch what you wish for, Republicans.

The imagined implications of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s resignation for the future of legal abortion have brought visions of long-awaited sugar plums to anti-abortion politicians and activists. In 2016, candidate Trump pledged to appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, saying that two or three such appointments would mean the end of Roe v. WadeNext week, we get the name of President Trump’s second pick. Trump’s anti-abortion supporters — including his evangelical advisers, the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, the Susan B. Anthony List, and most significantly,the Republican Party — are now confident that it is just a matter of time until Roe is overturned.

Yet the celebration around Roe’s demise seems premature, if not downright dangerous for the Republican Party. For starters, there is muted recognition that even under a Supreme Court populated by conservative Trump appointees, Roe v. Wade may not be overturned. This is because judges of all leanings are guided not only by their views on specific issues but also by foundational jurisprudential principles. These include stare decisis, which holds that unless there is a very strong reason for overturning a prior decision, that decision should stand as the rule for similar cases in the future. Early in our history, Americans rejected the idea of courts swaying to whatever political breeze blew in at election time.Citizens should be able to rely on the durability of constitutional law no matter who is in office.

Indeed, the last big challenge to Roe was decided on the basis of stare decisis. In 1992, conservative-leaning justices refused to overturn Roe in a case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey. They explained that although they might have voted against Roe had they been on the Court in 1973, they would not vote to overturn it 20 years later. They found that nothing in the law had changed in the interim to justify overturning Roe. In fact, the court held quite the opposite, noting that an entire generation of “people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” This kind of social reliance might be even more weighty two generations after Roe.

But let’s assume, as both the left and the right seem to do, that of the nine justices, five of them can see their way clear to overturning Roe. How could that be bad news for Republicans? Since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan brought the anti-abortion movement into the Republican tent, a coalition of Republicans and evangelicals has focused on abortion generally and Roe in particular, as the super fuel that energizes the right. The ongoing Republican commitment to eliminating legal abortion by overturning Roe was evident in the 2016 election. Then, 70 percent of conservative voters said that the issue of Supreme Court appointments was very important to how they planned to vote, more than any other group. Small wonder then that President Trump said in a speech before the Susan B. Anthony List in May, “Now, for the first time since Roe v. Wade, America has a pro-life president, a pro-life vice-president, a pro-life House of Representatives, and 25 pro-life Republican state capitols.” From this perspective, what’s not to like about Roe’s reversal?

Counterintuitively perhaps, there are quite a few things. Getting rid of Roe would deprive the far right of one of its most crowd-pleasing, rabble-rousing, go-to issues. After all, there is plenty to dislikenabout abortion, if one is so inclined: the assumed sexual promiscuity of careless women and disobedient girls; the view that abortion is murder; and the power Roe gave to women by liberating them from their traditional place in the home. Roe bashing is a powerful source of solidarity; its absence would deprive Republican politicians and Fox News of the issue that stands at the ready to roil the political pot.

This is especially true now that fewer targets are available for Republican moral outrage.It used to be that you could always count on anti-abortion and anti-gay hostilities to stoke the base.But gay people and certain gay rights have become more familiar.There is now a right to marry the adult partner of your choosing. To be sure, there has been a presidential full-court press aimed at replacing gays with immigrants as the new subverters of the American way.Yet the last few weeks have revealed that mistreatment of immigrant families can cause popular, religious and legislative blowback, including from conservatives.

Claims of moral rectitude are not the only thing lost if Roe is overturned. If Roe is reversed, the question of whether abortion should be legal or whether it should be a crime reverts to the states, and this could produce additional concerns for the right. If state legislatures decided not to criminalize abortion, frenzied Republican accusations of “judicial activism” — the liberal judicial overreach Roe is claimed to symbolize — would ring completely hollow.

There is also important evidence that citizens themselves, even in red states, are not entirely sure they want abortion to be a crime. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation legislative tracking poll shows that two-thirds of Americans do not want Roe reversed. In addition, the last several red state referendums asserting that legally protected personhood begins at conception failed. Many states couldn’t get enough signatures to get such proposals on the ballot. It turns out that in the privacy of the voting booth, many citizens have second thoughts about whether they want rights for embryos embedded in their state constitution. Ordinary people — not anti-abortion politicians — may have a more intimate understanding of what is at stake for them in banning abortion absolutely. Women of all parties and religions have abortions or want the right to one should they be faced with the calamity of an unwanted pregnancy. Ask the women and men of Ireland, a staunchly Catholic country, why they voted for a referendum removing Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion.

The prospect of criminal abortion in the United States may also light a fire under younger generations of Americans who, in consequence of what has been called “the luxury of legality,” have become rather complacent about reproductive freedoms. For over 40 years, abortion and contraception have been legally available, so, like, that can’t change, right?Women of reproductive age may be about to discover the answer might be yes — and this could energize them to elect more Democrats who will support reproductive rights.

Justice Kennedy’s resignation has given President Trump the extra Supreme Court appointment he has so craved, and he means to make the most of it. He has already said that his nominee will be young enough to serve for some 40 years. Jubilation now reigns among those who want to go back to the good old bad days of illegal abortion — marked as they were by shame, misery and a massive class divide regarding access to abortion. Republican strategists may not wholly appreciate Mr. Trump’s gift of Roe’s reversal. And there is, of course, the possibility that the justices may decide to follow the path of two prior courts and leave the core legality of reproductive rights alone.

* * * * *

Carol Sanger, the Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, is the author of “About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in 21st Century America.”

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Brief in Trump’s Transgender Military Ban Case

Media Contact: Public Affairs at publicaffairs@law.columbia.edu or 212-854-2650 

New York, July 5, 2018—President Trump’s ban on military service by transgender individuals runs counter to decades of well-settled judicial decisions forbidding the government from entrenching sex stereotypes in law, according to an amicus brief filed July 3 in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic in a case challenging the ban.

The brief was filed in Karnoski v. Trump on behalf of major rights groups from across the country in support of transgender servicemembers challenging the ban, which President Trump first announced via Twitter in July 2017. The next month the president issued a formal memorandum directing the armed forces to prohibit transgender individuals from enlisting in the military. A previously existing ban had been lifted by President Obama in 2016.

In the brief, clinic director and Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg argues that justifications for the ban—including that open service by transgender men and women would harm unit cohesion—“def[ies] decades of constitutional jurisprudence rejecting laws and policies that restrict opportunities for men and women based on sex.”

Goldberg cites numerous cases in which such disparate treatment has been rejected by the courts, including Sessions v. Morales-Santana, a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a citizenship provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act treating mothers and fathers differently violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause

“In short, assumptions that men must be one way and women another, even when rooted in traditional views and practices, are not sufficient grounds for governmental denial of opportunities to men and women who do not conform to those assumptions but are otherwise qualified and prepared to meet all relevant requirements,” Goldberg writes.

Likewise, the government’s argument that banning transgender individuals promotes fairness, safety, and privacy within the military should be rejected, Goldberg writes, citing similar arguments previously used to justify the exclusion of women, gay people, and racial minorities.

Goldberg is one of the country’s foremost experts on gender and sexuality law. Before joining Columbia Law School, where she is co-director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, she was a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal and, in that capacity, served as co-counsel for the defendants in Lawrence v. Texas. She was assisted on the brief by Columbia Law School student Solomon Leung ’20.

The underlying case was filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, a legal services organization for actively serving LGBT military personnel and veterans. It was later joined by the state of Washington. In December 2017, lower courts issued a preliminary injunction barring the ban from taking effect. In April, U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman of the Western District of Washington upheld the preliminary injunction, rejecting the Trump Administration’s plan to implement the ban, which would allow transgender people to serve only if they did so in their “biological sex.”

Joining Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic on the brief are: California Women Lawyers, The Center for Reproductive Rights, Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, Equal Rights Advocates, Legal Voice, Michigan Association for Justice, National Women’s Law Center, Service Women’s Action Network, and Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Cynthia C. Robertson, Robert C.K. Boyd, and William C. Miller of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman also served as counsel on the brief.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018!


Posted on May 14th, 2018 by Elizabeth Boylan

A Message from the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
In Honor of the Columbia Law School Class of 2018


May 14, 2018 – The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law is thrilled to bestow our congratulations upon the Columbia Law School Class of 2018.

At the core of our work as a Center, we strive to provide resources and opportunities to enrich the experiences of all members of the Columbia Law School community – Students, Faculty, Alumni and Staff Members alike.

Our work is dependent upon the input, insight, and interest of these stakeholders – and it is with great sincerity that we express our gratitude to the graduating JD and LLM students who have inspired, participated in, and shared in our events and programs at Columbia Law School.

We have had the distinct pleasure of working with many of this year’s graduates as Research Assistants, as cohorts in planning events and programs with the vibrant Student Organizations at Columbia Law School. We have also worked with many of this year’s graduates as young scholars and lawyers pursuing academic scholarship, pro-bono work, and careers that are aligned with our Center’s mission to expand approaches to complex issues facing gender and sexual justice movements in the multiple contexts in which these movements develop.

It is our pleasure to congratulate those students being awarded degrees today from Columbia Law School. We are deeply proud of all of your accomplishments and wish you all the best moving forward.


Professor Katherine Franke
Faculty Director, The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law and
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Elizabeth Reiner Platt
Director, The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Kira Shepherd
Director, Racial Justice Program
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Liz Boylan
Associate Director, The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Job Opportunity for Law Students – National LGBTQ Task Force


Posted on May 2nd, 2018 by Elizabeth Boylan

Job Opportunity for Law Students!
10-Week Law Fellowship – Washington, DC

Our colleagues at the National LGBTQ Task Force are currently seeking two additional summer law fellows who will work out of their DC office for 10 weeks. The fellows will be supervised by Candace Bond-Theriault, as well as four other lawyers on the National LGBTQ Task Force’s policy team who work on a myriad of issues including, but not limited to: criminal justice, immigration, voting rights, data collection, reproductive healthcare, sex education, and transgender-specific issues.

We encourage all interested candidates to reach out to Ms. Bond-Theriault directly – – She may be reached at the National LGBTQ Task Force via the contact information included below.

Candace Bond-Theriault, Esq., LL.M.
Senior Policy Counsel, Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice
Democracy Project Director
National LGBTQ Task Force

202.639.6315 – Direct
202.393.2241- Fax

Email: cbond@thetaskforce.org

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Announcement: Kira Shepherd, Director of Racial Justice Project, to Moderate ABA Webinar on Civil Rights Protection in HHS
Registration:https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2177755790753598211

Tomorrow, March 8th, 2018, Kira Shepherd, Director of the Racial Justice Program with the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project will be moderating a discussion for the American Bar Association, titled, “Civil Rights Protection for Discrimination? Recent Developments in the HHS Office of Civil Rights.” Kira will be joined by panelists:

* Jennifer C. Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal

* Susan Berke Fogel, Director of Reproductive Health at NHeLP, and

* Jamille Fields, of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

The webinar will begin at 1:00 pm EST; Registration is required via GotoWebinar.com, at the following link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2177755790753598211

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

A summary description of the discussion’s content follows:

On January 18, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a new division of the HHS Office for Civil Rights focused on the rights of health care providers to determine or deny care depending on the provider’s religious conviction. The following day, HHS issued a proposed rule to broaden the scope of existing laws that permit denials to care, and grant OCR new outreach, investigative, and enforcement authority to ensure that federal funding recipients defer to providers’ personal and institutional beliefs over patients’ needs. How are these developments likely to affect patients’ ability to obtain necessary health care? Is this new policy likely to have particular impacts on vulnerable communities such as transgender people, women and people of color? Does the new policy strike an appropriate balance between the rights of patients and the rights of providers? Our panel of experts will discuss the new division and rule in depth and offer their views of what appears to be expanded protection for health care refusals.

Kira Shepherd

Kira Shepherd is the Director of the Racial Justice Program at the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. Before joining Columbia Law School she was the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute (TBI), an action think tank that leads advocacy work in the areas of immigration, education, the environment, and economic justice. Prior to working at TBI, Kira was a Campaign Manager at ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, where she worked on criminal justice and corporate accountability campaigns. She also worked at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center where she managed a city-wide youth advocacy project that was instituted in every public high school in Philadelphia. Kira has also worked with Families for Freedom, a human rights organization by and for families facing and fighting deportation, and Make the Road New York, the largest member-led economic justice group in New York. Kira graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark with a Juris Doctorate degree.

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