Issues in the legal regulation of sexuality are among the most contested in US law today. Determining a) whether gays and lesbians are entitled to the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples, b) which toilets transgender people are to use, c) if and when women should have access to contraception or abortion, and d) what rights sexual minorities have when availing of the services of a public servant whose religious convictions conflict with that public servant’s duties, are all questions which either have been litigated in US courts in recent years, or are currently being litigated. Assessing the merits of the arguments of parties involved in litigating these issues requires delving into the disparate areas of law which converge in these cases. These areas of law include the jurisprudences of liberty, privacy and equal protection and issues in the exercise of executive authority. They require probing the boundaries of states’ rights and federal authority, individual liberty and the free exercise of religion.
The course will explore this complex array of issues through four units: First, students will investigate different conceptions of sex, sexuality and gender, including the theoretical, philosophical, and, where relevant, religious, foundations of each different conception. The second unit on “Sexuality, the Constitution and Supreme Court Jurisprudence” involves the study of US Supreme Court decisions governing sexuality, including such cases as Loving v. Virginia, Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Obergefell v. Hodges. The third unit will examine the status of discrimination law as it pertains to the LGBTQ communities with special attention given to educational institutions, the workplace and the military. The fourth and final unit will deploy knowledge gained in the first three units to evaluate the litigation involving the treatment of transgender people, i.e. the litigation involving North Carolina’s House Bill 2 or HB2, the suit by officials in 11 states against the federal government over the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender rights, and any other similar litigation that is on-going at the time the unit commences.