904 SP Con Law: Political Equality: Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Race - §002, Spring 2009

Categories: Constitutional Law

Instructor(s) Greene, Linda

This seminar will focus on the
extent to which questions of equality are determined or influenced by political
processes such as legislation, initiative processes, or political activism such
as demonstrations and advocacy.  Have
political processes defined the content of equality?  Have courts imposed limitations on those
political determinations of equality or defer to those determinations?  

The seminar will focus on politics
and equality in three contexts-race/ethnicity,  gender, and sexual orientation. We will explore previous contexts that illustrate the interplay between
political processes and equality.  I will
examine this interplay in three contexts, the  political activity leading to
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the
opposition to equal measures in the initiative and referendum process,  the political activity in support of and
against women’s reproductive choice and the increasing resort by opponents of
reproductive rights to ballot measures to restrict rights; and the  political activity leading to the increase
rights for gays and lesbians and the use of the initiative process to constrain
or preempt those rights, for example gay and lesbian marriage.  At every turn, the question arises whether
equality should be defined by political majorities, and whether the role of
courts in the oversight of these measures is essential??"or illegitimate. 

We will use legal and non legal
sources, including film, to explore these issues.

What do does the recent
presidential election the election say about equality and politics?  Do the candidacies of Hillary Clinton, Barack
Obama, Sarah Palin, and the ascendancy of Barney Frank in Congress mean that we
are heading towards a gender, sexual orientation, and race blind society? Does
the election of an increasing number of blacks, women, Hispanics and others to
elective offices signal the end of political inequality and a corresponding
need for a lesser judicial role in the protection of equality?  Against the background of these recent
electoral developments, what meaning do we ascribe to the numerous anti
affirmative action measures, anti abortion, and anti gay marriage initiatives
on the nation’s ballots. 

What power does Congress possess to
define equality, and has the Supreme Court imposed constraints on its role?

In this seminar, we will return
time and again to an over arching questions-What is the appropriate role of
legislatures, the people, and the courts in defining and protecting Equality.

You may begin to think about the
issues in the course by reading the following articles on the same sex marriage
debate before the beginning of the semester.

Klarman, “Brown and Lawrence and
Goodridge” 104 Mich. L. Rev. 431 (2005); and Mary Bonauto, “Goodridge in
Context,” 40 Harv. CR-CL 1 (2005).

I will be in touch again during the
second week of December to let you know about other course materials and in
early January with a tentative seminar syllabus.

I look forward to these discussions! 

Each Student will choose a topic and write a paper which
will count for 70% of the grade. The remaining 30% will be based upon class
participation and several short (1-2) page writing assignments.  Class Participation and Attendance are required and No
Pass-Fail grades will be permitted.





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