Analysis and Commentary on Civil Rights

Changing the World One Case at a Time: A Review of Gillian Thomas’s Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman praises Gillian Thomas’s new book Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work, which profiles ten of the most important Supreme Court cases to the advancement of women’s equality in the workplace.

“Say No to This”: Courts Must Stop Holding that Firing Attractive Women Is Not Sex Discrimination

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman critiques a recent decision by a New York trial court holding that a woman who was allegedly fired by a male boss because she was “too cute” and causing the boss’s wife to be jealous had not alleged facts amounting to unlawful sex discrimination. Grossman explains why the ruling is based on unsound reasoning and misunderstands sex discrimination law.

The Thin Pink Line: Policing Gender at Every Corner

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Hofstra University law professors Joanna L. Grossman and Grant M. Hayden explain how recent controversies over same-sex marriage, transgender use of bathroom, and differentiated high school graduation attire for males and females reflect a collective unwillingness to blur gender lines. Grossman and Hayden further describe how these controversies are really simply part of a larger game of gender oppression.

RFRA, Zubik v. Burwell, and the Do No Harm Act

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Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, in which the Court via a per curiam opinion declined to interpret the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to the Affordable Care Act. Hamilton also describes the Do No Harm Act, which is a bill proposed this week that attempts to carve out of RFRA some of its worst incentives and inclinations. While Hamilton argues that RFRA should be repealed outright, she acknowledges that the Do No Harm Act is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Blue for Boys, White With Flowers for Girls: When Commencement Is an Exercise in Discrimination

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Duke law professor Katharine T. Bartlett explain why a high school policy prescribing one color of robes for boys and another color for girls violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX. Grossman and Bartlett describe how this controversy could be easily resolved, as other schools have resolved other similar controversies.

A Room With a View: Federal Appeals Court Says School District Cannot Bar Transgender Boy from Using the Bathroom Aligned with His Gender Identity

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit holding that a school district cannot bar a transgender boy from using the boys’ restroom. Grossman explains the reasoning behind the appellate court’s decision and calls into question the rhetoric that single-sex bathrooms are somehow “sacred”—in light of the many scandals that take place in these places.

North Carolina’s HB 2: Does Passing an Obviously Unconstitutional Law Make the Law Even More Unconstitutional?

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses North Carolina’s recent passage of House Bill 2 (HB 2), which purports to take away existing anti-discrimination rights from LGBT people. Grossman explains why the law is unconstitutional and considers whether, in light of the law’s patent unconstitutionality, the law reflects even greater animus by those who passed it.

How Should Courts Evaluate a Treatment Decision by a Government Doctor That Takes into Account the Patient’s Race? The Ninth Circuit Doesn’t Quite Get Things Right

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Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, critique a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considering whether and when a government physician can take into account a patient’s race. Amar and Schaps argue that the court’s analysis is internally consistent and legally flawed, as well.

Protection Against Sexual Harassment Is Alive and Well in the Sixth Circuit

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in which the court affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a sexual harassment plaintiff. Grossman describes the facts leading up to the case and explains why the jury and the appellate court came to the correct conclusion as a matter of fact and law.

Course Correction: Young v. United Parcel Service Makes Courts Focus on Right Issues, but Also Reveals Limits of PDA

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the effect that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service has had on cases arising under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), as well as the limitations of that decision. Grossman argues that while the decision helped give effect to the intended purpose of the PDA, it did not and could not expand the scope of the statute, which is what is now needed to adequately protect pregnant workers.

Distinction Without a Difference: Federal Court Says Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Sex Discrimination

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by a federal district court denouncing the legal distinction between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination. Grossman praises the reasoning behind the decision and expresses hope that other courts will follow suit in recognizing “as illusory and artificial” any distinction between the two brands of discrimination.

Enactment of the Women’s Equality Agenda: A Fitting Bicentennial Birthday Gift for Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses New York’s enactment of the Women’s Equality Agenda, which nearly coincides with the 200th birthday of women’s rights champion Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Grossman describes the history behind the Women’s Equality Act as well as the provisions it codifies.

Dred Scott After Nearly Two Centuries

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda the lead-up and history of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision—in which the Court in 1857 held that African Americans could not be American citizens and therefore could not sue in federal court. Rotunda explains how the case progressed through the state and subsequently federal courts, and discusses how the decision affected some of the justices sitting on the Court at the time.

Marriage Litigation in the Wake of Obergefell v. Hodges

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on the first of a wave of litigation sparked by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Rotunda points out that in some cases, lower courts handling these cases have not adequately discussed or distinguished the relevant cases.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional la... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more