Cross-posted to Medium

The Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington made a call to action for women to strike on March 8th, 2017 in honor of International Women’s Day. The idea was to utilize this recognized day as a springboard for engagement through a wide-spread strike. The organizers’ language follows:

…we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system — while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor

2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).

3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman”[1]

The systemic discrimination against and marginalization of women and gender minorities are at the root of these matters. Prior to the 20th Century, there were few options that women had for pursuing economic independence, and into the 21st Century women and gender minorities are greatly underrepresented in positions of authority in nearly all fields, and are underrepresented on the whole in many fields. Women and gender minorities’ unpaid labor is difficult to quantify: unpaid labor may describe caring for elder members of family and community, caring for and educating children. Unpaid labor also speaks to the number of women and transgender persons who perform uncompensated labor through internships and apprenticeships as a result of lack of access to paid work due to discrimination. The idea of on principle disengaging from unpaid labor is fraught with symbolism, and calls into question how we identify “work,” what it means to participate in work, and what visibility implies.

The reasoning behind the Women’s March on Washington organizers’ call to action is grounded in truths that need to be dissected further if they are to be used as foundational materials for a broad revolution. According to statistics published by Pew Research in 2016, Asian women earn $0.87 for every $1.00 that white men make; white women earn $0.82 for every $1.00 that white men earn; black women earn $0.65 cents for every $1.00 that white men earn, Hispanic women earn $0.58 for every $1.00 that white men earn.[2] In regards to the Women’s March organizers’ statement on trans and gender nonconforming persons’ inequity, per a July 2011 report from the Williams Institute, “78% of respondents to the largest survey of transgender people to date reported experiencing at least one form of harassment or mistreatment at work because of their gender identity; more specifically, 47% had been discriminated against in hiring, promotion, or job retention.”[3] The inequities between the pay that white women receive versus what women of color receive indicate the ways in which multiply marginalized persons experience exponentially greater levels of inequality, and the disproportionate rates of discrimination and mistreatment that transgender individuals face in the workplace are unconscionable. Movements for gender equity need to recognize and attend to fact that race, ethnicity, gender experience and expression and socioeconomic status overlap and compound the fight for justice. We cannot have a movement for gender justice that does not seek to dismantle these systems of power and inequality that divide us and prevent progress.

In multiple contexts, the ability to “take the day off” is heavy with the privilege it bears: It implies that a person can forego a day’s worth of pay, and will not personally suffer individual, collective, or economic violence as a result of their not engaging in work. It could be perceived, too, as an implication that if all women were to be absent from work today, that systems would not fail, people would receive life-saving health-care, and cities will not crumble into ruin: this indicates a critical devaluation of the work that women perform. The “ability” of persons to take the day off is an ableism that represents privileges that are at the core of critiques of White Feminism.

When organized as a large-scale movement or mobilization, a strike is a powerful tool against oppression that highlights how hegemonic systems are profoundly reliant on marginalized constituencies. In individual corporations, communities, and schools, a well-organized strike can result in enormous benefits for the strikers: new contracts are negotiated, demands are met, and progress is achieved for the marginalized group. Strikes, however, can also be devastating: people may be reprimanded, fined or fired for their absence; when the persons and systems that hold the power are unwilling to negotiate change. A strike, too, by particular members of a marginalized group without a collective agreement that all members strike may then result in the discriminatory policing of strikers who may concurrently be members of the group striking (in this case women), and other marginalized groups subject to greater scrutiny (communities of color, transgender/gender-non-conforming women, and women of lower socioeconomic classes). In theory, a large-scale strike by women and gender minorities would have a profound visual effect, but without a uniform plan of action, insurance for financial and/or job protection, and plan for pursuing recourse to end or following the strike, such an action will not be a successful counter-hegemony.

I question what it means when a person’s presence is meant to be more powerful by their conspicuous absence. A Day Without Women raises ideas of visibility and invisibility, and how these relate to women’s experiences and the value that women provide to systems economically, socially, and culturally. If women, as a whole, experience less prominence and visibility in the work place, and are valued less than male persons in the workplace, I question how their absence makes them more visible: while it may not make the individual more visible, it makes the work that they perform — which is on the whole, devalued — more visible. A coarse example might be what would happen if a municipality were to suspend trash pickups: citizens would be forced to see, smell, and otherwise confront the reality of work and workers that are unseen.

Direct action is visceral, and can have profound effects, but it needs to be a part of a larger and more complex dialogue and series of actions in pursuit of a visionary goal. Building a movement that is mission-driven, sustainable, and has specific outcomes requires persistence, complex and multidimensional organization, and visibility.




Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, on Behalf of NAACP LDF and AALDEF, Urges Supreme Court to Strike Down School Board’s Restroom Discrimination Against Transgender High School Students

In an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court by Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, two of the nation’s leading civil rights legal organizations, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, challenged a Virginia school board’s decision to exclude a high school student from the boys bathroom because he is transgender.

Gavin Grimm, the 17-year old plaintiff-respondent in the case, challenges a policy adopted by the Gloucester County, Virginia school board that forbids transgender students from using bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. The policy provides that use of boys and girls bathrooms in the school district “shall be limited to the corresponding biological genders, and students with gender identity issues shall be provided an alternative appropriate private facility.” Grimm won in the federal appeals court below, and the school board sought review in the nation’s high court.

The brief reviews a disturbing American history of rules enacted by state and local governments that physically separated one group of people from others based on unfounded fears and prejudices. These rules applied to bathrooms, swimming pools, recreational facilities, marriage, neighborhoods and workplaces, and are now understood to violate our most basic commitments to equal treatment under law.

Suzanne B. Goldberg, Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic said, “Discomfort and unfounded fears are never good reasons for rules that separate one group of people from others.” She added, “Our history shows that these kinds of rules are shameful violations of the American commitment to equal treatment under law. There is no exception to this equality commitment for those who would discriminate against transgender students.”

“The brief filed jointly today powerfully demonstrates that the demand for equality and justice and the arguments used frustrate those rights are drawn from a common well. LDF’s rich and unique history challenging discrimination in public accommodations provides a critical vantage point from which to analyze the exclusion of transgender persons. We are proud to work together with the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in providing this essential context and perspective,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF.

Kenneth Kimerling, Legal Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said: “The experience of Asian Americans in the United States is replete with acts of discrimination based on biased beliefs about Asians, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during the World War II, to present-day attacks on Asian Americans who are from countries with large Muslim populations. The treatment of transgender students by Gloucester County is just another example in a long American history of false fears leading to discriminatory acts.”

As the brief argues: “There is a lengthy and troubling history of state actors using public restrooms and similar shared spaces to sow division and instill subordination.” Drawing parallels between the safety and discomfort rationales offered by governments for racial separation in bathrooms and other settings, the brief adds: “This disreputable tradition of state and local governments enshrining fear or hostility toward a disfavored group of people into laws requiring their physical separation from others should encourage this Court to view with skepticism the rationales proffered by local officials here.”

The brief demonstrates this striking similarity between support for racially separate spaces and school board policy here: “[T]he bathroom-exclusion rule here fits within a troubling tradition of local and state governments justifying the physical separation of certain groups from others under the guise of providing protection or avoiding discomfort.” It explains, too, that both courts and society at large have rejected discrimination of this kind.

Co-counsel included Sherrilynn Ifill, Janai Nelson, Christina Swarns, Monique Lin-Luse, Deuel Ross, Coty Montag, and John Paul SchnapperCasteras of NAACP LDF, and Peter K. Stris, Elizabeth Rogers Brannen, Dana Berkowitz, and Victor O’Connell of Stris & Maher. Columbia Law SchoolColumbia Law School students Jordan Weatherwax ’18 and Princeton Hynes ’17 provided research for the brief.

Read the brief.

To Navigate Uneasy Times, Chart a Course with Thoughtful Analysis

Posted on February 1st, 2017 by Elizabeth Boylan

In these uneasy times, it is important that we as lawyers, activists, advocates and citizens seek out clear and factual information and analysis, so as to be able to navigate the waters of uncertainty. As members of the Columbia Law School community, we are grateful for a position where we can develop thoughtful discourse and pursue research that sheds light on these complicated issues.

Two memos from the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP), published on Monday, January 30th, offer thoughtful legal analysis on the proposed policies and recently signed Executive Orders of President Donald J. Trump. The PRPCP’s 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.  The PRPCP is a research initiative within the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.  Per the PRPCP’s mission statement, “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.”

The first of these memos, Church State & the Trump Administration reviews the policies proposed by the President during his campaign, his recent edicts and Executive Orders, and the policies supported by members of his cabinet both historically and currently.  In a press release for this memo, the PRPCP notes: “Despite his stated commitment to religious freedom, during his first week in office President Trump has issued an Executive Order that clearly expresses an official State preference for Christianity, and disapproval of Islam. Furthermore, Trump has consistently demonstrated that his policies will be grounded in the concerns of certain conservative Christian groups. His Executive Order reinstating a significantly expanded version of the anti-choice global gag rule, an expected Executive Order sanctioning anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and his selections for cabinet appointments all point to an administration that will seek to further particular religious ideals while breaking down the barrier between church and state.”  In response to President Trump’s campaign promises and his interactions with his support bases in the United States, Ashe McGovern, Associate Director for the PRPCP affirms, “Trump has made clear, through executive orders and cabinet appointments, that he seeks only to prioritize a version of white Christian nationalism and supremacy, that, if left unchecked, would create tangible harms to many marginalized communities—and violate fundamental liberty and equality guarantees under the Constitution”.  The PRPCP is committed to continuing the thoughtful analysis of the Trump Administration’s proposals, and have noted that the memo will be updated as the President and his cabinet take further actions over the next several weeks.

The second memo, Trump’s Executive Order Banning Refugees is Unconstitutional, focuses on President Trump’s Executive Order of January 27th on travel and immigration–the “Muslim Ban”–specifically noting how the text of the EO in direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The memo states, “The Executive Order amounts to both a form of state sponsored discrimination against persons of one particular faith and a religious preference for persons of another faith, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

The memos, co-written by PRPCP Director Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Associate Directors Ashe McGovern and Kira C. Shepherd, with the support of Faculty Advisor Professor Katherine Franke, may be found at the PRPCP policy page.  Detailed blog posts regarding both analyses may be found on the PRPCP Blog.

The Women’s March on Washington | A Body in Motion

Posted on January 27th, 2017 by Elizabeth Boylan

Saturday, January 21st 2017 should be marked in history as a day when people came together with the purpose of uniting to support one another’s needs.  The Women’s March on Washington, an enormous event that catalyzed in the days and weeks following the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, is being extolled as the largest protest rally and march in history.

Faculty and staff from the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law marched in Washington, DC and New York, NY; Kira Shepherd and Ashe McGovern, Associate Directors for the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project marched in Philadelphia, and student activists from Columbia Law School raised funds to charter a bus so that Columbia Law School students could participate in the March in Washington, DC.

In the days following the Women’s March, there has been a lot of discourse as to what the march accomplished.  The march cannot be viewed as a means to an end, or as a single action.  What was accomplished in the day of the March itself is that people were rallied to the streets out of fear, pride, anger, and a desire for community and communion with others, who for various reasons, were compelled to do the same.  What was accomplished on the day of the March itself is that a diverse group of speakers took to stages in cities across the world to extoll the need for citizens to be civically engaged so as to oppose all forms of oppression and injustice.  What was accomplished is that people looked around themselves, listened to the voices around themselves, and felt themselves moving as a part of something much larger than themselves.

What was accomplished was, hopefully, the first page of the next chapter in the movement for justice and equality for women, trans and gender non-conforming persons, persons of all sexualities, racialized persons, ethnic minorities, religious minorities and members of first nations in the United States, persons of all genders and sexualities.  When we ask what the march accomplished, we need to ask what we are doing, each day, to embody the spirit of the march as expressed by the founders in their mission statement, “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us…. We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities…. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up.”[1]

On an individual level, I have faith that the march accomplished a note brought in the final sentence of the excerpt I quoted above – – that the march was the first step.  It is up to those who attended the March and its sibling marches in other cities, to those who organized the marches, and to those who witnessed (either in person or via media) the marches and found themselves inspired by them to take the next steps forward, and build momentum towards an inclusive movement for equality and equity.

Isaac Newton’s law of inertia states that a body “will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.”[2]  We, the people, were compelled to uniform motion on Saturday, January 21st, 2017, by the external force of an elected official who is aligned with parties and platforms that do not respect or advocate for the rights of all persons.  Though external forces may threaten our movement along our trajectory, so long as we stay in motion, we will remain in motion.

On an informal level, while we have a long way to go, I continue to be inspired by and mobilized to my own action by the words, actions, and work of my colleagues and the student leaders at Columbia Law School.  To all the movers and shakers that compel me out of inertia – – The Faculty and my colleagues at the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project, and the student leaders who chartered a bus so that Law Students could attend the March, I am grateful.




Professor Katherine Franke, in Washington, DC. Photo by Lisa Qiu.

The author (Right) with friends and family in Washington, DC.

Marchers in New York, NY. Photo by Suzanne Goldberg.

Marchers in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Ashe McGovern.

Students in Washington, DC, bore a banner that read, “Columbia Law: Changing What We Cannot Accept”.


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Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Amicus Brief in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Supporting Challenge to Law That Blocks Restroom Access for Transgender Men and Women

Media Contact: Public Affairs, 212-854-2650 or

New York, October 25, 2016—North Carolina’s law that excludes transgender men and women from restrooms consistent with their gender identity fails constitutional review, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed today with the Fourth Circuit federal appeals court.

The law, passed in March 2015, tells all in the state that they can only use restrooms that match the sex marker on their birth certificate, even if that marker is inconsistent with their gender identity.  It sparked immediate outcry from artists and business interests, prompting a boycott of the state for what many described as inhumane and discriminatory treatment of transgender people in the state.

Responding to a lawsuit by three transgender North Carolinians, all who study or work at University of North Carolina, a federal district court ordered the University to allow the three plaintiffs to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.  The court found a violation of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities.

But the court refused to grant preliminary relief based on the plaintiffs’ claim that the law also violates their constitutional equality rights, declaring that because the law did not cause problems for most people, it seemed to serve the state’s important interest in privacy and could remain in force while the case proceeds.  The court wrote:  “[I]t seems unlikely that a law that classifies individuals with 99.7% accuracy is insufficient to survive intermediate scrutiny.”

The Clinic’s brief asks the appeals court to reverse this part of the ruling, arguing that the lower court misapplied the governing law.  “Equal protection jurisprudence and common sense both make clear that a constitutional violation does not become tolerable if its harms are isolated to a minority of the population,” it states.

“When a state imposes a severe burden on some in its population, like North Carolina does here to its transgender residents, there is cause for constitutional alarm,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, Director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic and Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law.  “A law that requires transgender men to use the women’s room and transgender women to use the men’s room puts these men and women at risk of harassment and physical danger.  The legal question is whether the state can justify this severe restriction based on its interest in preserving privacy – and the answer is that it cannot,” she added.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and Jenner & Block.

David J. Richards ’17 and Samuel Rosh ’18 assisted with the Clinic’s amicus brief.

Read the brief here:

Call for Research Assistant – The What We Know Project

Posted on October 6th, 2016 by Elizabeth Boylan


Dr. Nathaniel Frank, who runs Columbia Law School’s “What We Know Project,” is seeking a law/graduate student (or undergrad with strong research skills) for 5-10 hours of research assistance on an LGBTQ  health. The position is unpaid but with the possibility of future compensation. School credit could potentially be awarded for internships, independent study, etc.

View the project at

See more about Nathaniel at

Ideal skills include:

* Familiarity with, and interest in, LGBTQ issues and public policy research

* Strong research skills using online databases, Google, phone queries, etc.

* Understanding of a range of research citation formats (or ability to learn quickly)

* Good time management and follow-through

* Ability to read and digest quickly

* Attention to detail

Primary tasks include:

* Conducting article searches, aggregating abstracts, writing research briefs and some administrative work

Please send cover letter and CV to Nathaniel at

Our colleagues at the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network have invited us to share a call for papers for the 2017 Law & Society Association Annual Meeting on our blog. Their call for papers is also published here.  A copy of this call for papers appears below.

* * * * *

Call for Papers – Friday September 16th Deadline

The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network

Seeks submissions for the

Law and Society Association Annual Meeting

Mexico City, Mexico, at the Sheraton Maria Isabel, June 20 – 23, 2017

* * * * * *

Dear friends and colleagues,

We invite you to participate in the panels sponsored by the Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at the Law and Society Annual Meeting in 2017. The Feminist Legal Theory CRN seeks to bring together law and society scholars across a range of fields who are interested in feminist legal theory. Information about the Law and Society meeting is available at

This year’s meeting is unique in that it brings us to the Global South, and invites us to explore the theme Walls, Borders, and Bridges: Law and Society in an Inter-Connected World. We are especially interested in proposals that explore the application of feminist legal theory to this theme, broadly construed. This might include papers that explore feminist legal theory in comparative or transnational contexts, as well as in relation to the impacts of globalism and other intersections within particular locations, relationships, institutions, and identities. We are also interested in papers that will permit us to collaborate with other CRNs, such as the Critical Research on Race and the Law CRN, and welcome multidisciplinary proposals.

Our goal is to stimulate focused discussion of papers on which scholars are currently working. Thus, while you may submit papers that are closer to publication, we are particularly eager to receive proposals for works-in-progress that are at an earlier stage and will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide.

The Planning Committee will assign individual papers to panels based on subject. Panels will use the LSA format, which requires four papers. We will also assign a chair, and one or two commentators/discussants for each panel, to provide feedback on the papers and promote discussion. For panels with two commentators/discussants, one may be asked to also chair.

As a condition of participating as a panelist, you must also agree to serve as a chair and/or commentator/discussant for another panel or participant. We will of course take into account expertise and topic preferences to the degree possible.

The duties of chairs are to organize the panel logistically; including registering it online with the LSA, and moderating the panel. Chairs will develop a 100-250 word description for the session and submit the session proposal to LSA before their anticipated deadline of October 19. This will ensure that each panelist can submit their proposal, using the panel number assigned.

The duties of commentator/discussants are to read the papers assigned to them and to prepare a short commentary about the papers that discusses them individually and (to the extent relevant) collectively, identifying ways that they relate to one another.

2016-2017 Course Offerings at Columbia Law School

Posted on June 24th, 2016 by Elizabeth Boylan

Columbia Law School recently announced it’s lineup of classes for the 2016-2017 Academic Year.  We’re pleased to see the number of courses devoted to studying civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, gender justice, and the problems of mass incarceration.

The full list of courses may be found here, but we’ve selected a few highlights for our friends, colleagues, and students that we list on our webpage, and in the list below:

FALL 2016

Antidiscrimination Law
Jessica Bulman-Pozen
Law – L6905-001

This course will provide an overview of federal constitutional and statutory antidiscrimination law while encouraging students to consider the proper role of the law in addressing discrimination and inequality. The focus will be on discrimination based on race and sex, but some attention will also be given to discrimination based on other characteristics, including sexual orientation and disability. We will explore: competing frameworks for antidiscrimination law; constitutional and statutory doctrines, including disparate impact; the roles of courts, legislatures, and administrative bodies, as well as private actors, in addressing discrimination; models of bias; and justifications for affirmative action. The course will consider such issues in a range of contexts, including employment, education, and housing.

Human Rights
Catherine Powell
Law – L6276-001

This is a core course in the Law School’s human rights curriculum. The course examines issues ranging from the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects to mass atrocities to basic rights to housing, speech, sex equality, LGBT rights and more. The course begins with the origins of the idea of rights from an historical, philosophical and analytical perspective. It then turns to the rise of the modern international human rights regime, including its origins and theoretical foundations, examines the basic international and regional human rights instruments and oversight and enforcement institutions, and considers remedies under both international and domestic law. The course considers the role of human rights law in the U.S. domestic system, as an example of the role of national law and institutions in securing human dignity. It also examines the human rights of women and refugees, the relationship between international criminal law and international humanitarian law and human rights law, and the human rights responsibilities of business enterprises. The course also covers selected rights from a comparative perspective (including international, U.S., and other national approaches), including comparative approaches to such topics as the protection of economic and social rights, equality and privacy in the context of LGBT rights, and the protection of rights in counterterrorism efforts.

Seminar: Civil Rights Lawyering in the Modern Era: Theory and Practice
Kendall Thomas and Myrna Perez
Law – L8155-001

This Tutorial Seminar will investigate issues in contemporary civil rights law and policy across a variety of settings. Particular attention will be given to controversies and questions that have been the subject of recent Supreme Court and appellate litigation or national policy debate. Seminar members will consider contemporary civil rights questions that have arisen in a number contexts, which may include: voting rights; employment discrimination; access to equal educational opportunity; fair housing and fair lending; barriers to reentry for individuals with prior criminal convictions; race and criminal justice; cybersecurity, privacy and civil rights, and immigrants’ rights. After examination of the current statutory and doctrinal framework for addressing discrimination and inequality in each of the selected areas, the seminar members will explore the practical and theoretical issues civil rights litigators and legislative lawyers face in each of the mentioned fields. Through close reading and critical analysis of the assigned materials, seminar members will develop a sense of the context-specific character of civil rights lawyering. Invited guests from both government and non-governmental practice will offer experiential perspectives on civil rights lawyering across a number of discrete institutional and professional locations. Finally, seminar students will consider and assess a broad range of remedial approaches for addressing discrimination and inequality in each context, and consider the structural and conceptual limits of contemporary civil rights law, policy and practice.

Seminar: Critical Human Rights Theory
Kendall Thomas and Thomas Keenan
Law – L8284-001

During the second half of the twentieth century, the idea of universal human rights emerged as a powerful source of legal and political discourse and governance, both within and across states. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, consensus regarding the meaning, interpretation and application of contemporary human rights norms continues to elude us. Once taken-for-granted notions bequeathed to us by the liberal humanist tradition–of a sovereign, rational human subject; of a shared human condition; of inalienable global human rights–are now radically contested, on conceptual as well as practical grounds. This three point, two hour weekly Tutorial Seminar will explore some of the classical and contemporary critical writing that has questioned the theoretical foundations of the human rights idea.

Seminar: Human Rights, Law and Development Workshop
Edwin Rekosh
Law – L9252-001

Discredited in the 1970s when it took the form of the “law and development movement,” international assistance in the area of reforming laws and legal institutions has flourished anew in the last two decades under the rubric of “building the rule of law.” In parallel, a human rights approach to international development has become mainstream, as most recently reflected in the adoption of SDGs (Social Development Goals) by the United Nations — particularly Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”The course will examine how human rights plays out in the 21st century against the backdrop of a quasi-consensus on the rule of law, explosive growth of locally-based advocacy organizations and accelerating economic globalization. In particular, the course will examine the fast-developing counter-trend that is constricting the space for local civil society as governments adopt new legislation and policies designed to reign-in the global forces that have been supporting the development of rights-claiming at the national level.

Human Rights Clinic
Sarah Knuckey and Benjamin Hoffman
Law – 9233-001

The Human Rights Clinic prepares students for lifelong careers in social justice advocacy around the globe. Through the Clinic, students join a community of advocates working to promote human rights and to recalibrate the global power imbalances that drive economic and political inequality, exploitation, threats to physical security, poverty, and environmental injustice. Through fact-finding, reporting, litigation, media engagement, advocacy, training, and innovative methods, the Clinic seeks to prevent abuse, promote accountability, and advance respect for human rights. Embedded in the Clinic’s work is a commitment to the values of equality and mutual exchange in transnational partnerships; respect for rights-holder autonomy, voice, and power; and diversity, inclusion, full participation, and justice within the human rights field.Through a combination of Seminars and Project Work, and with the mentorship of Clinic professors and supervisors, students develop the wide range of skills necessary to be strategic and creative human rights advocates, critically analyze human rights, and advance the human rights methodologies of the Clinic and the human rights field.

Mass Incarceration Clinic
Brett Dignam and Farhang Heydari

Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration is a clinic that will focus on litigation in federal court and resolution of claims related to prisoners’ conditions of confinement. Students will visit clients in state and federal prisons where they will interview, counsel and develop strategies. In collaboration with non-profit organizations and small civil rights law firms and subject to the law student intern rules, clinic students will litigate issues identified by the clients.Although the identification of cases will be done collaboratively with the clients, projects may include a federal habeas action on behalf of a state prisoner raising an actual innocence claim and conditions claims from MDC Brooklyn. It is anticipated that claims related to medical care and mental health will become part of the clinic’s docket. Students will continue to work with the community and the New York City Probation Department in an effort to eliminate barriers to successful reentry.

Externship: Domestic Violence Prosecution
Scott Kessler

The Domestic Violence Bureau offers a fieldwork opportunity, in which students are able to prosecute misdemeanor crimes on behalf of the State. Students will have the opportunity to apply law they learned in Criminal Law, Evidence, Criminal Adjudication and other classes. Operating under an Appellate Division special practice order, each student will be responsible for about 15 to 20 active domestic violence criminal cases and may work on other cases. Students will get the opportunity to argue pre-trial motions and take their cases to trial in a first-chair capacity as needed. Students also will subpoena relevant evidence, draft complaints, prepare discovery materials and negotiate pleas with defense counsel. They also will interview victims and meet with police, defense counsel and judges, seeking the right solution to cases that are fraught with consequences for the victims, defendants and families. To the extent possible, matters of discretion (e.g. what to charge, what plea to offer, what evidence to subpoena) are left to the student’s judgment. Thus, each student is forced to grapple with the tough decisions inherent to domestic violence prosecutions. Students will spend at least 10 hours per week working at the Bureau and appearing on their cases in Queens Criminal Court (located next to the E and F subway stop in Kew Gardens, Queens).


Family Law
Solangel Maldonado

This course examines the evolution of legal policy toward the family in response to important social changes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. These changes, which have shaped modern family law, include evolving gender roles in families and in society, the redefinition (and declining importance) of marriage, the expansion of non-marital families, and the increasingly effective advocacy by gays and lesbians for legal recognition of their family relationships. Against this backdrop, the course will focus on the legal regulation of marriage and other intimate adult relationships, and of the parent-child relationship. Substantial time will be devoted to premarital agreements, the meaning of marriage and marriage regulation, including the movement toward recognition of same sex marriage, divorce grounds, child custody, economic aspects of marriage dissolution (including spousal support and division of property by courts as well as private ordering through contracts), child support, the establishment and termination of non-marital relationships, establishing parenthood, and adoption.

Gender Justice
Katherine Franke

This course will provide an introduction to the concrete legal contexts in which issues of gender and justice have been articulated, disputed and hesitatingly, if not provisionally, resolved. Readings will cover issues such as Workplace Equality, Sexual Harassment, Sex Role Stereotyping, Work/Family Conflict, Marriage and Alternatives to Marriage, Compulsory Masculinity, Parenting, Domestic Violence, Reproduction and Pregnancy, Rape, Sex Work & Trafficking. Through these readings we will explore the multiple ways in which the law has contended with sexual difference, gender-based stereotypes, and the meaning of equality in domestic, transnational and international contexts. So too, we will discuss how feminist theorists have thought about sex, gender and sexuality in understanding and critiquing our legal system and its norms.For more information, go to:

Human Identity and the Scientific Revolution
Patricia Williams

This class will explore the challenges of translating the coded “œtext”€ of the double helix into the taxonomies of law, public policy, social science. We will consider the balancing of interests in the evolving intersection of DNA technology and the law, particularly as a contrasting set of scientific conventions and legal discourses.The human genome project has complicated the Anglo-American jurisprudential model, premised as so much of it has been upon a Manichean divide between mind and body, freedom and instinct, intellect and impulse. In addition, genetic modification and “€œbioprospecting”€ of microbial, plant and animal life forms have vexed the meanings of “€œproperty,” “€œnature,” “€œregulation”€ and “reproduction.”  Finally, in a world where DNA can pinpoint a range of medical or biological inequalities, the very cornerstone of our constitutional identity–the notion of equal personhood–is increasingly undercut by confusions about the distinction between cultural (or “€common sense”€) norms and reproducible scientific insight. That is, socially-constructed, pseudo-biological taxonomies like “€œrace”€ or “€œdisability”€ are given new if misleading life when falsely interwoven with the authority of genetic sequence.The challenge we face is how to chart an ethical course in the face of nearly unprecedented technological leaps and expansion of human understanding. How can we re-examine the etymological history hidden in common metaphors or the unconscious images embedded in the language we bring to the enterprise of knowledge production? What principles or philosophical coordinates do we employ in deciding what’€™s right and what’€™s wrong in confronting these evolving moral, legal and policy challenges?

Seminar: Domestic Violence and the Law
Dorchen Leidholdt

This seminar provides an in-depth examination of the issue of domestic violence, and the movement to advance the rights of survivors, from legal, historical, and multidisciplinary perspectives. It explores a wide range of topics across legal practice areas, including police and prosecutorial response, expert witness testimony, domestic violence survivors as criminal defendants and prisoners, legal remedies for victim safety, domestic violence and child custody, civil rights and civil actions, legal remedies for battered immigrants, economic justice for intimate abuse survivors, the intersection of intimate partner and related forms of gender violence, and domestic violence as a human rights concern. Many of the topics are approached using case studies drawn from actual cases handled by Ms. Leidholdt and other attorneys at the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services, which she directs.Special emphasis is placed throughout on the evolving response of state systems to intimate partner violence–especially criminal justice, child welfare, immigration, and human resources–as well as parallel developments in jurisprudence and theory. Students will explore and assess the legal and social justice strategies that contributed to these developments, from impact litigation to campaigns for legislative and public policy reform. In lieu of a textbook, students will be given The Lawyer’s Manual on Domestic Violence, 6th Edition, which Ms. Leidholdt edited. Students will also be provided with a weekly packet of readings drawn from case law, state and federal statutes, legal and social science commentary, and redacted litigation materials from actual cases handled by Ms. Leidholdt and the attorneys she supervises.

Seminar: Human Rights at Home: U.S. Human Rights Advocacy
Risa Kaufman

This seminar explores the use of human rights strategies to advance social justice lawyering in the United States. In advocacy on issues ranging from racial disparities in the criminal justice system to access to healthcare, U.S. lawyers are increasingly using the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and Inter-American Human Rights System, drawing on international human rights and comparative foreign law in litigation in U.S. courts, and engaging in broader advocacy such as documentation, organizing, and education. They find that a human rights framework provides new and cross-cutting strategies and highlights the interdependence of rights. Indeed, the human rights framework is having a profound impact on social justice lawyering in the United States.This seminar contextualizes and explores the growing movement to incorporate human rights strategies into U.S. social justice lawyering while preparing students to thoughtfully engage these tools in their own practice of law. We begin the semester by exploring the historical context of the contemporary U.S. human rights movement and developing an understanding of the sources of human rights in U.S. law. We then examine the ways in which advocates have sought, in recent years, to incorporate human rights discourse and practice into their domestic efforts to advance rights defense and promotion in general, and institutional responses to those efforts. The seminar explores litigation efforts, as well as non-litigation strategies, including engaging UN mechanisms and mobilizing grassroots communities. Through course materials, discussion, and guest speakers, we investigate the promise of domestic human rights strategies, along with the challenges and limitations. Many of the examples considered in readings and in discussion draw on advocacy related to economic and social rights, as well as work to advance racial justice in the United States.

Seminar: International Human Rights Advocacy
Hina Shamsi

This seminar considers major issues in contemporary international human rights from the perspective of the advocate. The initial class sessions will familiarize participants with key human rights standards and their implementation and enforcement through international, regional and national institutions and by non-governmental organizations. The remainder of the seminar will evaluate human rights advocacy tools and strategies applied in current political and social contexts and through case studies. We will critically examine the role of institutions and non-governmental organizations in upholding, advocating or failing to uphold international human rights standards. Topics are wide-ranging and include the challenges and opportunities presented to human rights advocates by: developments in national security and counterterrorism laws and policies; the intersection of international human rights and humanitarian law; and, how “positive” economic and social rights can and should be enforced in market economies and resource-challenged developing countries. We will have several human rights activists as guests.

Seminar: Mass Incarceration
Brett Dignam and Jeffrey Fagan

This seminar examines detention centers, jails, and prisons in an era of “hyper” or “mass” incarceration. Nearly 2.4 million Americans are now behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults, far more per crime than any other industrialized nation. If we include persons on parole or probation, one adult in 31 is under correctional supervision. Criminologists say that the experience of incarceration is so pervasive among some social groups as to be a defining feature of their collective (rather than individual) experience. We will examine both how people get to prison and their experiences once there. We will look beyond the institutional walls to analyze external regulation and oversight by executive or other public bodies, the influences of organizations of correctional professionals, legislation addressing detention and incarceration, and litigation brought by public and private actors.

This course is designed to stimulate students to think critically about contemporary punishment practices, and the serious social and economic consequences of mass incarceration. What accounts for the growth of incarceration, including both prison and jail? What have been the effects of the prison build-up on individuals, their families and communities? What are the social costs of incarceration in the communities that send the most persons to prison? What are the public safety consequences? What happens to inner-city communities when prisoners return in need of social and economic support? What happens to the children of incarcerated parents? How shall we interpret and critique the development of “supermax” prisons in the 1970s that place individuals into indefinite solitary confinement? What happens after people are released from prison? We will address these topics, bringing legal, statutory, policy and criminological perspectives to bear on these important policy topics.

Seminar: Race and Gender in Corporate Law, Governance & Theory
Aaron Dhir

This seminar explores the intersections of race and gender with corporate law, governance, and theory. The confluence of these fields, to date, has garnered little attention. Traditionally, the disciplines have lived in remote houses and have had few occasions to speak to one another. And yet, almost 30 years ago two feminist scholars argued that “the impacts of corporate cultures are not…marginal to the experiences of women” and bemoaned “the relationship between patriarchal culture and the development of business corporations.” And as noted by a leading scholar of racial justice, “[r]ace suffuses all bodies of law…even the purest of corporate law questions within the most unquestionably Anglo scholarly paradigm.”In addressing these intersections, topics such as the following will be considered:

(1) race and gender in the corporate law curriculum;

(2) feminist engagement with corporate law doctrine and theory;

(3) critical race engagement with law and economics and corporate law theory

(4) corporate board composition and the implications of homogenous boards for organizational performance and social justice;

(5) legal reform strategies aimed at addressing corporate board homogeneity;

(6) the use of corporate law tools to address gender and race issues; and

(7) corporate law in the transnational sphere and the implications for indigenous communities.

Seminar: The Anatomy of Autonomy: From Personhood to Personification
Patricia Williams

This course will examine what it means to be a person in the eyes of the law. We will examine the rhetorical framing that infuses our conception of living subjects, legal persons, non-persons and things. The line between human and subhuman, or person and thing, is given new urgency in an era when the limits of incarceration, torture, human trafficking, medical experimentation, and the right to due process often turn on newly minted meanings of words like “enemy combatant,” “IQ,” “underclass,” “market choice,” “race,” “terror” or “illegal immigration.” If slavery is “unthinkable” to most people today, why? How do we keep bringing the unthinkable back into being? What connection do historical taxonomies have to the contemporary perpetuation of genocide, torture, disappearance, starvation? What disconnections? What about us is truly or essentially “inalienable”?Whom we consider a person, whom we label less than fully endowed, are questions that inform some of the most urgent legal and political questions of our time. We will look at legal opinions, historical documents, as well as texts in philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, literary criticism, and popular culture.

Seminar: Topics in Sexuality Law
Katherine Franke

This seminar, previously called the Queer Theory Workshop, will explore in the spring of 2014 the ways in which appeals to religion, tradition and/or culture have been increasingly used to limit or trump the application of otherwise generally applicable laws securing equal rights for LGBT people and reproductive/sexual rights more generally. The seminar will cover the legal and political contexts in which religion or conscience are used to carve out exceptions to otherwise universally binding rights of equality and sexual liberty.The seminar sessions will be comprised of outside speakers for half of the sessions and selected readings related to the work of the outside speakers in the intervening sessions.

Seminar: Vision, Action and Social Change
Susan Sturm and Richard Gray

This field research seminar and practicum, co-taught by Professors Susan Sturm and Richard Gray, the Director of Community Organizing and Engagement at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, will explore innovative ways to reduce structural inequality and advance full participation in educational institutions and surrounding communities, with a particular emphasis on education and criminal justice. The seminar and field research projects will expose students to cutting edge, collaborative approaches to community and policy change through an action research approach connecting theory and practice.In class, the seminar will examine the dynamics that have produced growing inequality and shrinking mobility, limited quality education for under-served groups and communities, and the world’s highest incarceration rate. We will investigate strategies for enabling leadership of communities directly affected by these dynamics, building collaborative networks, mobilizing institutional and community-level change, achieving collective impact, and changing public policy informed by community needs. The course also provide training on qualitative interviewing, data analysis, network mapping, and policy research and examines the role of innovative lawyers in participating in this kind of community and systems change.For the fieldwork, students will undertake collaborative action research and policy projects, connected to ongoing change initiatives in their assigned setting. They will have the opportunity to work closely with leadership, staff and community members in their field research site. The course also offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge and capabilities that are crucial to be effective in advancing social change in a wide variety of contexts, such as facilitation, problem framing, using multi-disciplinary knowledge, conducting institutional analysis, mapping, collaboration, information gathering and analysis, and multi-media presentation.

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic
Suzanne Goldberg

The Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic provides students with a cutting-edge opportunity to step into the shoes of lawyers advocating on sexuality and gender law issues. The clinic’s cornerstones are collaboration, communication, and a multidimensional approach to advocacy.For much more information about projects and pedagogy, please see the Clinic’s website:

In the wake of last Sunday’s tragedy, wherein 49 people were murdered at a Latinx Night in an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in a violent attack that left more than another 53 people injured, the question that so many people beg the answer for is “Why?”

As the attacker was shot and killed by police, we cannot ask him what his motivations were, and speculating on the thoughts of a dead man is a dangerous proposition, as he cannot address any assumptions made.

I can’t speak to the individual who perpetrated the attack’s motives.  I won’t speculate on the affiliations or beliefs that this individual held, as they are not relevant, and making misinformed assumptions about persons’ identities and beliefs contributed to this attack in the first place. I will, however attempt to speak, in part, to the larger culture wherein this violent attack occurred, and how this larger culture, contributed to this tragedy.

What is clear is that this is an act of violence that clearly targeted the LGBTQ community, and specifically Latinx persons in the LGBTQ community.  Communities of color and ethnic minorities in the LGBTQ community are disproportionately subject to anti-LGBTQ violence, and the tragedy that occurred on Sunday morning is a gross and shocking example of this.

Persons of color were those on our continent first subject to erasure and systemized marginalization as a result of European colonialism and xenophobia.  The first nations that existed in North, Central and South America have largely been erased through genocide and systemic oppression.  Those individuals who survived or escaped genocide by capture or forced submission were enslaved or interred.  Additional persons of color from around the world were murdered, enslaved, and exploited for European and American capitalism.

LGBTQ identities are consistently marginalized and rendered invisible in larger dialogue.  Queer identities, gender-non-conforming and transgender individuals are particularly subject to marginalization and erasure.  By definition, something that is queer challenges the perception of normalcy and the status quo – – queerness is a curiosity, a transfiguration.  To be queer in a society that venerates heteronormativity is an act of personal and political revolution, one that is met with discrimination, violence, and systemic oppression.

Despite a popular culture that waxes poetic about equality, rights, and justice, our country’s legal system and politics speak to a grim reality.  The United States only denounced racial segregation in public schools as unjust in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.  The Civil Rights Act was only enacted 52 years ago in 1964, Title VII of which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”[1]  And, it wasn’t until October of 2009 that crimes committed “… where the commission of such offense ‘evidences prejudice based on… sexual orientation… of the victim.’”[2] were classified as Hate Crimes under Federal Law[3].  “According to the Florida Attorney General, hate crimes based on sexual orientation currently account for 22 percent of all hate crimes, surpassing religion as the second highest category. Race is still the most common motivation. When taking into account the size of the targeted communities, LGBT Floridians are at the highest risk of being targeted with a hate crime.”[4]  The fact that the attack in Orlando on Sunday, June 12th targeted a group of people whose identities intersect as members of a racial minority and that of a minority sexual orientation speaks to the prevalence of how vulnerable multiply marginalized persons are to violent hate crimes.

Based on a 2010 survey by Pew Research Center, 84 percent of Latinx persons cited discrimination against Latinx persons as a problem, with 61 percent of those respondents noting that it was a ‘major problem’; these figures represented an increase from a survey conducted in 2007, wherein only 78 percent cited it as a problem and only 54 percent felt it was a ‘major problem.’[5]  This represents an increase in discriminatory attitudes and behavior by larger society towards Latinos.  Additionally, according to another Pew Research Report, Latinx persons “are the second most discriminated against racial minority in the United States, after African Americans.”[6]

While Title VII protects individuals’ workplace rights based on ethnicity, “There is currently no federal statute prohibiting private sector sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.”[7]  No federal statute prohibits discrimination against employees based on gender identity.  While some states have adopted laws that offer employment or housing protection for LGB individuals, Florida, as a state, is not among them; even fewer states have adopted laws that offer employment or housing protection to transgender individuals.  Though some cities and municipalities in Florida have adopted anti-discrimination policies that prohibit discrimination against some LGBTQ persons, Equality Florida Action, Incl., reports that more than 53 percent of Florida citizens inhabit places where they can be denied housing or employment based on their sexuality.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center released a comprehensive national survey of LGBTQ Americans reporting on experiences of societal perceptions of LGBTQ identities.  The survey “offers testimony to the many ways [LGBTQ persons have] have been stigmatized by society…. (39%) say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30% say they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29% say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship; and 21% say they have been treated unfairly by an employer. About six-in-ten (58%) say they’ve been the target of slurs or jokes.”[8] While many of these incidents were not reported as criminal offenses, they represent a pervasive pattern of discriminatory and harmful behavior rooted in homophobia and transphobia that deny the dignity of LGBTQ persons.

Another research survey, conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation investigated ways in which LGBTQ persons’ access to and experience of health care in the United States differed from that of non-LGBTQ persons.  Their reporting notes that:

Health is shaped by a host of social, economic, and structural factors. For LGBT individuals, these factors include the experience and impact of discrimination, stigma, and ostracism which affect health outcomes, access, and experience with health care. Research available to date finds that while sexual and gender minorities have many of the same health concerns as the general population, they experience some health challenges at higher rates, and face several unique health challenges.[9]

Additionally, “bias and discrimination in the health care system have been… unfortunate … In addition to provider level discrimination… some policies in the insurance and financing system have disproportionately affected LGBT people, including pre-existing condition clauses permitting plans to deny insurance to people with conditions such as HIV, mental illness, or to transgender individuals….”[10].  Without adequate access to proper health care, LGBTQ persons are further disadvantaged in relation to non-LGBTQ citizens – – as LGBTQ persons are more likely to suffer from mental illness, substance abuse issues, and other chronic health problems.  This is compounded by the fact that many LGBTQ persons – especially transgender and gender-nonconforming persons – are less likely to have stable employment or sources of income. These factors magnify the marginalization of LGBTQ persons and put them at risk for further health problems, economic instability, subjecting them to additional social stigmatization.

These factors combine to develop a portrait of a country that does not afford LGBTQ persons the same legal rights as non-LGBTQ persons.  When a minority group of persons is not afforded the same rights as the majority, it represents not only that society does not value the rights of the minority, but that persons are not accountable to their government for upholding the rights of the minority.  This is the basis of systemic injustice: wherein an imbalance in a legal or social system causes a mutual ripple effect across both legal and social spheres in a state.  These echo chambers of law, policy and legislation, and social stigmatization and behavior have marginalized the LGBTQ community, and symbolize a state that enables widespread intolerance, fear, and hate against LGBTQ persons.

While the existence of anti-discrimination law and policy does not necessarily change societal attitudes towards minority persons, they are a powerful symbol of a legal system that values and commits to protecting the rights of all persons equally. With these laws and protections lacking in the United States, one cannot state that this is a country that truly seeks to uphold the rights of LGBTQ persons as equal to those of non-LGBTQ persons.

It is a dangerous assumption, however, to believe that by simply passing laws that would enable the protection of a marginalized group that all persons will ultimately abide by them.  The United States has seen this clearly through it’s history of systemic racism.  Though the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, persons of color are still subject to widespread discrimination and inequality; however, the passing of the Civil Rights Act at the very least represented that the United States Government recognized that person of color were deserving of the same protections as non-racialized persons in the United States. By failing to pass an amendment to the Civil Rights Act or other legislation that would protect the rights of LGBTQ persons, the United States Government denies the fact that LGBTQ persons are deserving of the same protections as non-LGBTQ persons.

The perpetration of these systems of injustice and inequality that ultimately contributed to a society wherein a marginalized group became the target of a violent hate crime.  The perpetuation of these systems of injustice and inequality oppress already marginalized minority communities further.  As a nation and as a society, if we believe in the equal rights of all people, we need to mobilize towards the creation, enactment and enforcement of laws and policies that protect the rights of minority persons and groups: Without this action, any talk about equality is simply noise.


[1] Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions And Answers.” Accessed 6/16/2016.

[2] Equality Florida Action, Inc. “Florida Hate Crimes.” Accessed 6/16/2016.

[3] Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill. Accessed 6/16/2016.

[4] Equality Florida Action, Inc. “Hate Crimes.” Accessed 6/16/2016.

[5] Pew Research Center. “Hispanic Trends.” Accessed 6/16/2016.

[6] Pew Research Center. “Hispanics: Targets of Discrimination.” Accessed 6/16/2016.

[7], “Employment Discrimination.”

[8] A Survey of LGBT Americans. Pew Research Center.  Accessed 6/16/2016.

[9] Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S. “Health Challenges.”  The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  Accessed 6/16/2016.

[10] Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S. “Impact of Changes in the Legal and Policy Landscape on Coverage and Access to Care.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Accessed 6/16/2016.

A Message in Response to the Tragedy in Orlando

Posted on June 16th, 2016 by Elizabeth Boylan

Low Library

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law joins our allies and friends in acknowledging and supporting all persons suffering as a result of Sunday morning’s hate crime at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

We also acknowledge the particular vulnerability and pain experienced by the communities most affected by this tragedy, especially the LGBTQ community, the Latinx community and LGBTQ communities of color.

Following the massacre, we have seen people resort to further hate and bigotry, expressing Islamophobic sentiments regarding the alleged identity and affiliation of the attack’s perpetrator. We refuse to participate in a culture that allows hate to beget further hate.  And we urge careful thought about the language being used to describe this event and to shape responses to it.  In particular, we resist the use of the term “terrorism” to capture the kind of violence suffered by those attacked at Pulse.  Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” The term focuses attention on the motivation of the shooter, and diverts attention from “political aims” that enable this kind of violence: a political culture that chooses the interests of gun owners over human life.  The term “terrorism” exceptionalizes these acts of violence and exonerates Congress’s embrace of a well-funded politics of death.  Our political culture is saturated with a kind of necro-politics and this sort of mass murder is its extreme, ugly face.  For this reason we are also troubled by our allies who lament the failure of a bill in Congress that would have denied gun permits to “terrorists.”  Besides the obvious Islamophobia that underwrites this kind of legislation, isolating “terrorists” as the people who don’t deserve to own weapons renders everyone else not so labeled as innocent if not virtuous bearers of Second Amendment rights.

What is vitally important is that we all cultivate a culture that enables us to move away from hate, and towards a dialogue that seeks to dissect fear and cultivate compassion, understanding, and support for the marginalized communities that are suffering most right now.  We also are committed to deconstructing the systemic legal, cultural, and social inequities that enabled this tragedy to occur.

Sunday morning’s hate crime has left many people feeling a range of intense emotions.  We at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law believe that feeling those emotions is important, and channeling emotion into passionate action is a positive way to enact change in our world.

At the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Blog, we have developed a list of12 ways that individuals can take action in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando.  The blog post may be accessed here, and we encourage you as our friends and colleagues to offer any further suggestions you may have.

In Solidarity,

The Center for Gender & Sexuality Law and
The Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Professor Katherine Franke
Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law

Elizabeth Reiner Platt
Director, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project

Kira C. Shepherd
Associate Director, Racial Justice Program

Liz Boylan
Assistant Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law



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