Analysis and Commentary on Civil Rights

Independence Day: The Texas Supreme Court Refuses to Hold That the Federal Constitutional Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Has Full Force in Texas

SMU Dedman School of Law professors Joanna L. Grossman and Dale Carpenter comment on a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court in which it refuses to give effect to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry. Grossman and Carpenter explain why the Texas court’s decision was clearly wrong and why factors other than merits might have (though they should not have) affected the ruling in that case.

Summarily Reversed: Arkansas’s Attempt to Flout Obergefell v. Hodges Is Blocked

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent summary reversal of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld that state’s attempt to avoid the marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Grossman describes the ways in which some states, such as Arkansas in this case, have tried to avoid, subvert, or limit Obergefell’s holding, and she discusses the Supreme Court’s simple yet clear response, as well as the significance of Justice Gorsuch’s dissent from the per curiam opinion.

Policing Sexism at the Border: The Supreme Court’s Decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, in which the Court held unconstitutional a federal law imposing different physical presence requirements on mothers as compared to fathers. Grossman argues that the law at issue epitomized sex discrimination and was rooted in archaic generalizations about parents based on gender.

Discrimination Begets Discrimination: The Ninth Circuit Allows Prior Salary to Justify Paying Women Less Than Men for the Same Work

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit perpetuating pay disparities between men and women by allowing an employer to rely on prior salary in determining pay. Grossman explains why the use of salary history undermines the purpose of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and argues that laws prohibiting use of salary history, like Massachusetts has, require an employer to think about how much the work is worth rather than how much the person is worth.

Equality for All: Federal Appeals Court Holds in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College That Title VII Prohibits LGBT Discrimination

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, in which it unequivocally held that Title VII prohibits LGBT discrimination. Grossman describes the history leading up to this momentous decision and applauds the court for getting it right.

The Complexities of a “Motive” Analysis in Challenging President Trump’s Executive Order Regarding Entry to the United States

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law emeritus professor Alan E. Brownstein explain the complexities behind analyzing the motive underlying legislation and executive orders. Specifically, Amar and Brownstein highlight the difficulty in courts’ using perceived motive to strike down President Trump’s executive order regarding entry to the United States.

The Child Sex Abuse Scandals Are All the Same and They Demand the Government to Act

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania and the CEO of CHILD USA, calls attention to the patterns of child sex abuse that indicate it is a symptom of a larger society-wide problem. To address this problem at its root, Hamilton proposes a law that would mandate certain principles and practices for every organization involved in any way with children.

Should Federalism Play a Role in the Interpretation of Civil Rights Laws?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf argues that in some contexts, consideration of states’ rights is relevant to the interpretation of federal statutes, but in other contexts—including the federal lawsuit over a transgender boy’s access to a boys’ restroom at school—principles of federalism are outweighed by other considerations. Dorf provides three examples of instances where federalism should play a role in the interpretation of federal statutes, and he explains why the transgender bathroom case differs from those instances.

Another Senseless Act of Destruction: The Trump Administration Undermines Protections for Transgender Students

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman argues that the decision by the Trump Administration to roll back protections for transgender students is mean-spirited and serves no legitimate purpose. Grossman briefly describes the history of the recognition of transgender rights under federal statutes and explains why protections for transgender students make far greater legal sense than denying those protections.

The Real Religious Liberty Deficits Right in Front of Us

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania and leading church/state scholar, outlines what the United States must do to restore true religious liberty under the First Amendment, rather than go down the path of extreme religious liberty supported by right-wing Christian lobbyists. Hamilton argues that President Trump needs to remove Steve Bannon, unhinge himself from the extreme religious right, and open his eyes to the plain discrimination directly in front of him.

The Religious Liberty Shell Game Needs to End Now Before the Civil Rights of Women and LGBTQ Recede into History

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, reminds of the distinction between constitutional rights and statutory rights. Hamilton argues that the so-called right to religious liberty used to excuse discrimination against LGBTQ individuals derives from federal statutes that were enacted out of animus in the first place.

The Republican Fail on Sex Assault and Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how many Republicans are responsible for blocking legislative change that would help victims of sexual assault and child sex abuse find justice. Hamilton argues that the current climate in the United States draws the line at protecting—whether implicitly or explicitly—perpetrators of sexual abuse and child sex abuse.

Trump has Unleashed Forces that Put the Vulnerable at Risk, Which Means the Private Sphere Will Have to Step Up to Protect Them

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, describes three individuals named to lead Donald Trump’s presidency who will threaten already-vulnerable communities. Hamilton argues that Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon, and Jeffrey Sessions are likely to reduce or eliminate the rights of gays, women, minorities, and children over the next four years unless the private sector steps up.

Raise the Rainbow Flag: Federal Court Rules that Title VII Bans Sexual Orientation Discrimination

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal district court in Pennsylvania holding that Title VII bans sexual orientation discrimination. Grossman describes the gradual recognition of sexual orientation discrimination as a cognizable injury under Title VII and praises the court for coming to the correct conclusion.

Do Fourth Amendment Protections Vanish After an Indictment? The Manuel v. Joliet Case on the Supreme Court’s Docket

University of Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a case in which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week. In that case—Manuel v. Joliet—the Court will consider whether an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure continues after an indictment has issued, thereby allowing a malicious prosecution claim based on the Fourth Amendment. Amar argues that the case highlights some unusual features of Supreme Court practice, as well as some important aspects of constitutional law.

In a Case with Blockbuster Potential, Detroit School Children Assert a Federal Constitutional Right to Literacy

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar takes an early look at Gary B. v. Snyder, a case recently filed in federal district court that addresses a child’s fundamental right to literacy. Amar explains how the timing may be ideal for a case of this nature, should it ultimately reach the Supreme Court, since the Court seems increasingly willing to recognize new liberties not mentioned in the Constitution, among other compelling reasons.

The Problem With the Texas Federal Court’s Nationwide Order Regarding Bathroom Access for Transgender Students

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and U.C. Davis Law professor Courtney Joslin discuss a recent decision by a federal district court in Texas issuing a nationwide order regarding bathroom access for transgender students. Amar and Joslin explain why the order almost certainly oversteps that court’s authority without providing any reasons or analysis to justify its overbroad relief.

Seventh Circuit Criticizes but Affirms Title VII Precedent Excluding Sexual Orientation

Attorney and editor at Justia, Sarah Andropoulos comments on a recent decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit criticizing but affirming courts’ exclusion of sexual orientation discrimination from protection under Title VII. As Andropoulos explains, the panel’s reasoning is somewhat convoluted, and its conclusion does not seem to follow from its logic.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more