Author: Leonore F. Carpenter

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Supreme Court Decides Not to Decide Transgender Student Bathroom Case

On Monday, March 6, the Supreme Court issued an order in a carefully watched case about the rights of transgender students. The order essentially decided not to decide the case, leaving many observers and activists on both sides of the issue somewhat confused about why the Court acted as it did, and where the case goes from here. To understand what just happened, it’s critical to understand the facts of this case, and the basis on which it was decided below. The facts of the case are relatively simple. Gavin Grimm is a transgender boy who attends Gloucester High School in Virginia. Gavin’s gender identity is male, and he began to transition during his sophomore year of high school. As his outward appearance became more congruent with his identity, Gavin grew increasingly uncomfortable using women’s restrooms – and found that women and girls were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with his presence there. When he asked his high school principal for permission to start using the boys’ restroom, he was given the go-ahead, and things seemed fine …


In the Movement for LGBTQ Equality, the Mission Isn’t Even Close to Accomplished

Something happened earlier this week that stunned many longtime LGBTQ advocates. On Dec. 12, Empire State Pride Agenda, New York state’s leading LGBTQ policy advocacy group, announced that it was winding down operations. An advocacy organization closing up shop isn’t in itself all that surprising. Nonprofits frequently fold, often due to lack of funds or instability in leadership. What was surprising was the spin the organization chose to put on the announcement. According to the group’s press release, its leadership “determined that the Pride Agenda has achieved its top policy goals, and are proud that the organization’s achievements in the last quarter century have profoundly changed the lives of more than 1.5 million LGBT New Yorkers and their families, and set an example for the entire nation.” Wait. What? Although it’s true that Empire State Pride Agenda, the state of New York, and the LGBTQ movement as a whole have come a very long way, we’re frankly shocked by the organization’s declaration of “mission accomplished.” This announcement exacerbates the perception that once same-sex marriage became legal …


A Union Unlike Any Other: Obergefell and the Doctrine of Marital Superiority

Obergefell v. Hodges is a historic decision that accomplishes the important task of requiring marriage equality across the nation. To many, the opinion’s romantic language gives particular poignancy to the historic moment when the long-recognized fundamental right to marry was finally extended to same-sex couples. However, what people see as the romance of the opinion masks a profoundly conservative decision, one that abandons meaningful equality analysis, and instead engages in a full-throated embrace of the conservative institution of marriage as an essential and necessary cornerstone of American society. In so doing, the decision advances a new and troubling doctrine of marital superiority that explicitly undercuts the dignity and worth of non-marital relationships. Much to the dismay of those who may have wished to allow states to experiment with other, more progressive relationship-recognition forms, Obergefell’s marital superiority rhetoric may guarantee that marriage will, for the foreseeable future, remain the only recognized relationship in town. Download the paper from the Georgetown Law Journal.