We have exciting news to share: the Center for Gender & Sexuality has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Arcus Foundation to launch the Engaging Tradition Project to study how the ideas of tradition are deployed both to undermine and support gender and sexuality-based social justice projects!

This project will bring together a wide range of academics, lawyers, students, and grassroots advocates to examine how the use, or rejection, of tradition impacts the advancement of policy toward equality.  A critical goal of the project is to better enable advocates working for sexual, gender, racial, and economic justice to resist tradition-based objections—whether derived from religion, custom, history, gender role stereotyping, forms of family, or identity and nationalism.

Funded by the Arcus Foundation, a leading global foundation advancing pressing social justice and conservation issues, the Project will expand the work of our Center significantly through a grant of $1.5 million over three years.

The Engaging Tradition Project’s Director will be Urvashi Vaid, who will be based at the Center and who brings a distinguished record of service in legal, LGBT, and philanthropic organizations. Vaid is a former staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project and the former Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, whose think tank she also directed.

An experienced executive with the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation, Vaid served as Deputy Director of Ford’s Governance and Civil Society Unit, and as Executive Director of Arcus. Vaid is the author Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation, a groundbreaking analysis of the political strategies and frames of the LGBT movement, and co-editor with John D’Emilio and William Turner of an anthology of histories of key LGBT policy wins titled, Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights.

“Those who oppose the efforts to expand gender, sexual and racial justice quite often and quite effectively invoke tradition to articulate their objections,” Vaid said. “Whether these arguments are framed in the language of traditional values, traditional family, traditional cultures, or traditional ordering of economic and racial hierarchies, they have deep cultural and political resonance.”

The Engaging Tradition Project will conduct research, in consultation with legal practitioners, scholars and activists from social justice movements, and analyze the ways in which tradition is deployed to resist, if not undermine, progressive changes in law and policy for women and sexual minorities.

The project will also look at the use of tradition in arguments by advocates of gender and sexuality-based social justice projects to shape legal and legislative strategies, frame public education messages, and strengthen arguments that advance the rights of groups seeking social justice. It will critically examine the utility and cost of arguing that rights for women and sexual minorities will not upset tradition but will rather advance it.

“Columbia Law School’s commitment to link theory to law and policy in practice ensures that the Engaging Tradition Project’s insights will find real-world relevance in litigation, policy initiatives, and broad-based advocacy while also contributing to academic discourse about sexuality and gender law,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.


  1. And getting back to tradition, much of what I explain in the above post I learned from Tradition; this word comes from the Latin “traditio”, meaning “passing on”, as in passing on teaching. I learned to reason well about these truths, through Tradition.

  2. attempting my post again, referred to in the preceding comment:

    Although tradition and morality are sound reasons for holding that same sex unions do not merit legal protections, there is also the truth that rationally, society simply does not have the same interest in preserving the integrity and stability of unions that are inherently non-procreative. Same-sex couples are never capable of producing children through one another, as is so natural to a man and woman. Even if such couples are de facto raising children, they are not families in the same sense as a married couple together with their children. Spouses have a right to become parents only through one another, with homosexual couples this is never, ever the case. Even adopted children deserve to have a married mom and dad and the diversity of benefits that come from their female and male parent, living in a natural relationship. Rationally, this is what is best for children and for society.

    In respect for not only the natural law, but also the dignity of my parents, I strenuously object to their marriage being equated with relationships “consummated” by homosexual s0domy. These initiatives attempt to center marriage on p0rneia, with the willing consent and help of many heterosexual people who, thanks to the culture of contraception and sterilization, share the perspective that sex is for adult pleasure and bonding, with very little in the way of moral boundaries, but it is absolutely optional whether it is “used” for bringing forth new life and raising a family.

    I used to completely agree with that perspective and was vehemently in favor of legal recognition for homosexual unions! And it was precisely because I saw nothing wrong with heterosexual forn1cation and contraception. Homosexual unions seem not that different from that (though there remains a true difference; homosexuality is objectively disordered), so if that low-water mark (to put it too gently) of heterosexual behavior is the point of reference then pleas for “fairness” toward homosexual unions appear to make sense. But when compared with marriage and procreation, homosexual unions are very, very different and it is not rational to legislate parity between them.

  3. haha, Elizabeth D’s comments are much more interesting than this sorry project.

  4. […] 8th, 2011 by Vina Tran  Add a comment   From Urvashi Vaid, the Center’s Engaging Tradition Project Director.  Vaid is a former staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project and the former Executive […]

  5. Tradition and social justice? Starting some fascinating work this week with my old friend and colleague Urvashi Vaid: http://t.co/6d18fZ0l

  6. Getting a realty venture shut off the ground is a significant concern. So any startup regarded as GroundBreaker has set in motion a white-label crowdfunding resolution that home entrepreneurs make use of to raise bucks for their ..

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