Analysis and Commentary on Civil Rights

Is It Arbitrary to Distinguish Incest From Homosexuality?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb differentiates state bans on incestuous marriages from bans on same-sex marriages by looking at the governmental interests the bans purportedly serve and the harm done to their targets. Colb argues that the U.S. Supreme Court can, if it wishes, use this distinction to strike down bans on same-sex marriages without also having to rule on bans on incestuous marriages.

If She Don’t Win It’s a Shame: Female Executive Sues New York Mets for Pregnancy Discrimination

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman and University of Pittsburg law professor Deborah Brake comment on a recent lawsuit filed by Leigh Castergine against her former employer, the New York Mets, alleging pregnancy discrimination. Grossman and Brake argue that based on Castergine’s allegations, she is likely to prevail in her case; however, they describe the inconsistent results in many seemingly similar pregnancy discrimination cases across the country.

Two New Rulings Unmask the Weakness of the Case Against Marriage Equality

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Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on two recent rulings on state bans on same-sex marriage—one by the U.S. District Court for the District of Louisiana upholding that state’s ban and the other by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit striking down bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Dorf explains how a comparison of these two rulings reveals weaknesses in the case against marriage equality.

Comparing Two Federal Appellate Court Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage

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Attorney David Kemp discusses the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. He compares and contrasts that opinion to an opinion handed down last month by the Tenth Circuit striking down Utah’s equivalent law. Based on the majority and dissenting opinions, Kemp anticipates what might be the key issues if the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court—an event that seems increasingly likely.

Hard Labor: New Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance From the EEOC

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s new Enforcement Guidance on pregnancy discrimination. Grossman provides an overview of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, as well as a history of courts’ treatment of pregnancy discrimination claims. She describes how the new Guidance clarifies the Act and serves to help pregnant women begin work, continue working, and return to work throughout the reproductive process.

How to Fix the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf proposes eight different options for fixing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Dorf suggests that open discussion of what was wrong with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. can inform the public and opinion leaders about how to fix RFRA when the opportunity arises.

Hobby Lobby Yields More Rancor as Wheaton College Queues Up to Deny Contraceptive Coverage to Its Female Employees

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Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses Wheaton College’s request to receive accommodation under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to avoid providing some reproductive coverage for its female employees. Hamilton draws upon her own personal experience and points out that the recent controversies over RFRA in the U.S. Supreme Court have revealed that law’s true nature.

Federal Appellate Court Rules Utah’s Ban on Marriage by Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upholding a lower court’s invalidation of a Utah ban on same-sex marriage. Grossman points out that while state same-sex marriage bans have been invalidated in sixteen different rulings across the country, this decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has so ruled.

What’s Really Wrong With the Decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Burwell?

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Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Cardozo School of Law, offers a strong critique of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Court held that owners of closely held corporations may deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives on the basis of the owners’ own religious beliefs. Hamilton explains why the Court’s interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is problematic and calls for that legislation to be repealed as soon as possible.

What RFRA Has Wrought: Hobby Lobby, Onionhead, and the Perils of Religious Triumphalism

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Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recently filed religious discrimination lawsuit the EEOC brought on behalf of several employees against two companies, United Health Programs of America, Inc. and Cost Containment Group, Inc. In that case, the two defendant companies are allegedly imposing their “Onionhead” practices on their employees and discriminating against those employees who object to those practices. Hamilton argues that the case illustrates what is at stake in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court is expected to resolve crucial questions about the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its relationship to civil rights acts.

Academic Freedom Is Not Immunity From Robust Debate in the Marketplace of Ideas

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Cardozo Law School professor Marci Hamilton argues for the importance of academic freedom but distinguishes it from immunity from debate in the marketplace of ideas. She comments on a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request targeting University of Virginia School of Law professor Douglas Laycock for allegedly using university resources for anti-LGBT ends. Hamilton calls the formal FOIA request unnecessary but the intent to question how his public positions on various issues play out in the real world. Hamilton describes a number of positions Laycock has taken publicly that support the view that he is an advocate for extreme religious forces.

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