Archive | Sex Discrimination

My Upcoming Appearance on the Bob Zadek Show, Discussing the Gay Marriage Litigation

Tommorrow from noon to 1 PM Pacific time (3-4 Eastern), I will be appearing on Bob Zadek’s talk radio show in San Francisco to talk about the gay marriage litigation and other related issues. Zadek is a libertarian political commentator and lawyer who hosts a weekly talk show devoted to various political and legal issues. Details on how to listen and call in are available here, including a way to listen through the internet if you are in the San Francisco area.

For my argument that bans on gay marriage are constitutionally suspect because they discriminate on the basis of sex, see here and here. In this series of posts from 2008-09, I explained why gay marriage lawsuits (at least at the state level) have been a net plus for the cause of gay rights, despite the political backlash that they generated.

We will likely discuss both questions during the show, as well as others, such as whether or not government should be involved in the business of defining marriage at all. [...]

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Gloria Allred Calls for Criminal Prosecution of Rush Limbaugh

Noted lawyer Gloria Allred, writing on the letterhead of the Women’s Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund has asked the West Palm Beach County Attorney to prosecute Rush Limbaugh for violating Fla. Stat. § 836.04:

Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree ….

Readers of the blog know of my disapproval of Rush Limbaugh’s “slut”/”prostitute”; but while I condemned those remarks, they can’t be criminally punished.

1. Knowingly false statements of fact about a person are indeed constitutionally unprotected, whether they injure the person’s reputation (and are thus libel or slander) or would simply be highly offensive to a reasonable person (and are thus actionable under the false light tort. But that is so only when a reasonable listener would perceive these as factual assertions, not as hyperbole or as statements of opinion.

Thus, for instance, say that A asserts that B is guilty of “blackmail.” Blackmail is a crime, and accusations of crime are generally actionable libel. But if in context it is clear that the word is “rhetorical hyperbole, a vigorous epithet used by those who considered [B]’s negotiating position extremely unreasonable,” then the accusation is constitutionally protected opinion — it is basically an assertion that B’s accurately described conduct is morally similar to blackmail, a statement of opinion (and perhaps clearly understood hyperbole). So the Court held in Greebelt Coop. Pub. Ass’n, Inc. v. Bresler (1970).

Limbaugh’s saying that Fluke’s testimony “makes her a slut” and “makes her a prostitute” falls into the same category: Listeners would understand is as “rhetorical hyperbole, … vigorous epithet[s] used by [Limbaugh,] who considered [Fluke’s advocacy] extremely unreasonable,” an assertion (however logically unsound, [...]

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More on Gay Marriage Bans and Judicial Minimalism

In a thoughtful recent post, co-blogger Dale Carpenter takes issue with my argument that bans on same-sex marriage are best attacked on the grounds that they are unconstitutional sex discrimination, and parts of my post suggesting that a minimalist strategy in the gay marriage litigation is not likely to work. Dale is one of the leading academic experts on the law of same-sex marriage, so I take his points very seriously. Nonetheless, I remain unrepentant.

Dale argues that the sex discrimination argument is flawed because “(1) it obscures the heart of the equal protection issue, continuing exclusion of gay men and lesbians, and (2) it isn’t sufficiently attuned to the Court’s sex-discrimination cases, which do suggest a lower level of scrutiny when legislation addresses ‘real differences’ between men and women (like the capacity to get pregnant or, one might say in the marriage context, the capacity to procreate as a couple).” On the first point, I think this “obscurity” is part of the strength of the argument. The idea that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be subject to strong judicial scrutiny has no roots in the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment and only a modest basis in recent precedent (Romer v. Evans). By contrast, sex discrimination has long been subject to heightened scrutiny, and, as I noted in my first post on the subject, there is growing recognition that this is consistent with the original meaning. Most important, as I explained in some detail in the earlier post, laws banning same-sex marriage do not in fact ban anyone from marrying anyone else because of their sexual orientation. Anne is free to marry Bob even if one of them is gay or lesbian. On the other hand, these laws do restrict marriage rights on [...]

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Sex Discrimination and Tradition

In a recent post, co-blogger David Bernstein partially rejects my argument that a ban on same-sex marriage qualifies as sex discrimination. As David puts it:

On the one hand, I agree with Ilya that bans on same-sex marriage could be described as sex discrimination. On the other hand, from opponents’ perspective, the point is that “marriage” has been defined for several thousand years in Judeo-Christian culture as between a man and a woman, and retaining that definition is not sex discrimination.

The opponents’ argument, however, in no way refutes mine. Many forms of sex discrimination have “several thousand years” of tradition behind them, often backed by religion. Consider such cases as the exclusion of women from many professions, unequal divorce laws, the treatment of wives and daughters as the property of their husbands and fathers, and so on. The fact that a form of sex discrimination has existed for a long time and enjoys religious backing does not make it any less discriminatory.

I am also unmoved by David’s analogy between a ban on same-sex marriage and a hypothetical Israeli law under which boys are entitled to a state-recognized “bar mitzvah,” while girls only get a “bat mitzvah,” which has the same legal status but is less prestigious. If the bar/bat mitvah were a government-endorsed legal status rather than a private cultural and religious tradition, it would still be sex discrimination for the state to allocate that status on the basis of gender – especially if one of the two labels were in fact more prestigious than the other. I would say much the same thing about David’s hypothetical of a female monarch who wishes to be labeled a “king” rather than a “queen.” These examples only have intuitive appeal because in modern liberal society, we generally regard bar [...]

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On Same Sex Marriage and “Sex Discrimination”

On the one hand, I agree with Ilya that bans on same-sex marriage could be described as sex discrimination.  On the other hand, from opponents’ perspective, the point is that “marriage” has been defined for several thousand years in Judeo-Christian culture as between a man and a woman, and retaining that definition is not sex discrimination.

Imagine, for example, that having a bar mitzvah in Israel provided boys with various and important rights and obligations.   [Let me tighten the hypothetical a bit.] Imagine that in Israel, any thirteen year old Jewish boy could go to city hall and get a certificate of bar mitzvah, regardless of whether he had a religious bar mitzvah ceremony, and imagine further that this certificate provides the boys who get it with various important rights and privileges. Israel, recognizing that girls should be entitled to analogous rights, offers girls a [certificate of] bat mitzvah instead.  The bat mitzvah gives girls the same legal rights and obligations as boys, but because it’s not called a bar mitzvah, it’s less culturally significant and, according to critics bespeaks inequality (and in fact, while bar and bat mitzvahs don’t confer legal rights and obligations in Israel, it’s an important religious and cultural tradition. Girls don’t always get a bat mitzvah, and when they do, it’s rarely celebrated with the same vigor or considered as significant as a bar mitzvah in the same family).

A girl sues, demanding that she be entitled to a legally recognized “bar mitzvah.”  On the one hand, Ilya could rightly claim that by definition, denying her access to the status of “bar mitzvah” is sex discrimination.  On the other hand, defenders of limiting legally recognized bar mitzvahs to boys would rejoin that bar mitzvahs by definition, backed by hundreds of years of tradition and culture, [...]

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Judicial Minimalism and Same-Sex Marriage

Co-blogger Dale Carpenter argues that Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s recent decision striking down the California gay marriage ban is an attempt at “judicial minimalism” intended to make the outcome acceptable to a Supreme Court that is unlikely to rule that the Constitution requires nation-wide recognition of same-sex marriage. By “lowering the stakes,” Dale argues, Reinhardt gives the Court a way to affirm his ruling.

This may well be Reinhardt’s intention. But I am skeptical that it will work. Whatever one thinks of judicial minimalism generally, there is no minimalist way to strike down Proposition 8. Even if the impact of such a decision were limited to California, that in itself is a huge step. California is a state with some 37 million people. Moreover, the logic of Reinhardt’s decision is that there is no “rational basis” for denying same-sex marriage in a state that already permits same-sex civil unions that give couples the same substantive rights as marriage would. In addition to California, there are seven other states that permit civil unions without legalizing same-sex marriage, including major states such as Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey. Many other states are likely to enact civil unions over the next few years, because the idea is very popular, with even a plurality of Republicans supporting it, as of 2010. If the Supreme Court embraces Reinhardt’s reasoning, a state that enacts a civil union law would have to embrace gay marriage as well. That’s not a minimalist result confined to one or a few states, and the Supreme Court justices are likely to realize that.

On the other hand, Dale is probably right to argue that the Supreme Court is not going to rule that the Constitution requires recognition of same-sex marriage at a time when 44 states still forbid [...]

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Why Same-Sex Marriage Bans Qualify as Sex Discrimination

Today’s Ninth Circuit decision striking down California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage is unpersuasive because it claims that the law fails to meet even minimal “rational basis” scrutiny. Eugene Volokh does a good job of explaining why. But there is an alternative constitutional rationale for striking down same-sex marriage bans that avoids this problem. Proposition 8 is an example of sex discrimination, and must be evaluated under the higher standards of scrutiny applied to gender discrimination by the Supreme Court.

Although the sex discrimination argument has been advanced by several academic advocates of gay marriage, nonacademics tend to be skeptical because the same-sex marriage bans seem to be targeted against gays, not men or women. Hostility towards gays is certainly part of the motivation for bans on same-sex marriage. But that does not prevent these laws from qualifying as sex discrimination. In terms of the way the law is actually structured, a same-sex marriage ban in fact discriminates on the basis of gender rather than orientation. And it is perfectly possible to discriminate on the basis of sex even if the motivation for doing so is something other than sexism.

Consider the hypothetical case of Anne, Bob, and Colin. If same-sex marriage is forbidden, Anne is allowed to marry Colin, but Bob cannot do so. This is so even if Anne and Bob are identical in every respect other than gender. Bob is denied the legal right to marry Colin (and all other men) solely because he is a man. Denial of a legal right solely on the basis of gender is the very essence of sex discrimination.

By contrast, sexual orientation actually has no effect on the way the law operates. Anne is still allowed to marry Colin, even if one of them happens to be gay or lesbian. [...]

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Calabresi & Rickert Respond to Whelan on Originalism and Sex Discrimination

Earlier this month, I posted on Steven Calabresi and Julia Rickert’s new paper, “Originalism and Sex Discrimination.”  Published in the Texas Law Review, this article makes an originalist argument that gender discrimination, such as the exclusion of women from VMI, is unconstitutional.

This is an important article, which has already received notice from Lawrence Solum and Jack Balkin, among others.  It was also subject to a lengthy critique by Ed Whelan on NRO’s Bench Memos in five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  Calabresi and Rickert have written a response to Whelan which I am posting here.  It begins below and the continues after the jump.

[UPDATE: Ed Whelan has a brief rejoinder here.]

Steve Calabresi & Julia Rickert Response to Ed Whelan

We recently posted an article on SSRN entitled “Originalism and Sex Discrimination,” which  has now been published in the Texas Law Review. We argue in our article that the Fourteenth Amendment outlaws all systems of caste from the Black Codes to European feudalism to the Indian Caste system.  We also argue that after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote, it was constitutionally correct to read the Fourteenth Amendment’s ban on caste as outlawing sex discrimination with respect to civil rights.  Our position is that originalists reading the text of the Fourteenth Amendment today need to synthesize it with the text of the Nineteenth Amendment.  We believe that the political right to vote which the Fifteenth Amendment extends to men of any race, and which the Nineteenth Amendment extends to women of all races, is at the apex of the Constitution’s hierarchy of rights while civil rights, which the Fourteenth Amendment protects form the base of the pyramid.  Children, aliens,

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Affirmative Action for Men in College Admissions

My wife Alison and University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot have just published an article in Engage on the apparently growing practice of sex discrimination on behalf of men in college admissions. Heriot serves as a Commissioner at the US Commission on Civil Rights, where Alison is her special assistant/counsel. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

While some news reports indicate that discrimination against women on the basis of sex in college admissions is increasingly common, there has been relatively little public discussion about it—especially compared to the much more heated public debate concerning race-based affirmative action. Not surprisingly, therefore, there have been few attempts to study the extent of the problem systematically….

Multiple news reports indicate that some colleges and universities, both public and private, have what they regard as “too many” women applicants and are therefore discriminating in favor of men—largely because more women than men apply to college and their academic credentials are in some ways better. Several colleges have more or less openly admitted to discriminating against women – including the University of Richmond (a private institution) and the College of William and Mary (a public institution). Others—including Southwestern University (Texas), Knox College (Illinois), Brandeis University (Massachusetts), Boston University (also Massachusetts), and Pomona College (California)—shy away from admitting directly that they are discriminating, but admit that maintaining an optimal gender balance by non-discriminatory means is difficult….

Sex discrimination in admissions at public universities is illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. But under federal law, it is perfectly legal for private institutions to engage in sex discrimination in admissions—though once both sexes are admitted, neither may be discriminated against….

Perhaps the most attention-getting piece on this topic was a 2006 New York Times op-ed by Jennifer Delahunty Britz, an admissions

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Whelan v. Calabresi & Rickert on Originalism and Sex Discrimination

Last week, I noted the important new article by Stephen Calabresi and Julia Rickert making an originalist case for the unconstitutionality of sex discrimination.  In short, they argue that the 14th Amendment is best understood as prohibiting caste legislation, not just racial discrimination, and that it must be read in light of subsequent amendments, the 19th Amendment in particular.

Ed Whelan has responded to the Calabresi-Rickert article at length at NRO’s Bench Memos.  To put if briefly, he is not convinced.  His response consists of five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. [...]

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An Originalist Argument for the Unconstitutionality of Sex Discrimination

It is generally accepted that the Supreme Court’s sex discrimination jurisprudence cannot be reconciled with an originalist interpretation of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.   Originalists and non-originalists alike accept that the original intent of Section One was to preclude racial discrimination against blacks, and that there was no intent to prevent sex discrimination by state entities.  Nor did the original public meaning of Section One embody a rule that would prevent state governments from engaging in sex discrimination.

In an important new paper, forthcoming in the Texas Law Review, Northwestern law professor Steven Calabresi and Julia Rickert argue that the conventional originalist view on sex discrimination is wrong, and that the Supreme Court’s sex discrimination decisions (if not their rationales) are largely consistent with a true originalist understanding of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Specifically, they argue that Section One is best understood as a prohibition on caste legislation and that the meaning of the Amendment must be considered in light of subsequent constitutional amendments, the Nineteenth Amendment in particular.  Thus understood, Section One prohibits state-sponsored gender discrimination and can even justify the Court’s decision in the VMI case.

This article is Lawrence Solum’s “Download of the Week,” and with good reason, as it is sure to prompt significant discussion and debate.  As Solum would say, “Download it while it’s hot!” [...]

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North Carolina Crime of “Assault on a Female”

North Carolina, it turns out, makes “[a]ssault[ing] a female” a class A1 misdemeanor, if the attacker is “a male person at least 18 years of age”; female-on-male, male-on-male, and female-on-female assaults are generally class 2 misdemeanors. This can translate into a substantial difference in sentencing — for instance, someone who has no prior convictions would face up to 60 days in jail for a class A1 misdemeanor, but only up to 30 days for a class 2. And the statute seems to be used often; searching for “assault #on #a female” & date(= 2010), for instance, uncovered 37 appellate cases just last year.

In State v. Castosa (2005), the North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected an Equal Protection Clause challenge to the statute, citing State v. Gurganus (N.C. Ct. App. 1979), which did the same. Here’s the 1979 court’s reasoning:

[Under the Supreme Court’s] test set forth in Craig and reiterated in Goldfarb …[,] [f]irst, the classification by gender must serve “important” governmental objectives. Second, the classification by gender must be “substantially” related to achievement of those objectives. We find that G.S. 14-33(b)(2) meets both these requirements and is in no way violative of the letter or spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In passing upon the constitutionality of the challenged subsection of the statute, we do not examine it in isolation. Instead, the challenged subsection must be viewed in context and as a part of the entire and integrated whole of the statute in which it is found. G.S. 14-33, in its entirety, prohibits varying types of assault, batteries and affrays as follows:

§ 14-33. Misdemeanor assaults, batteries, and affrays, simple and aggravated; punishments. — (a) Any person who commits a simple assault or a simple assault and battery or participates in a simple affray

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The Decline of Men or Just the Rise of Women?

Cato Unbound has an interesting symposium on the changing status of men in society, including a lead essay by Kay Hymowitz arguing that men are in decline and “falling behind.” The idea that the men are declining is not unique to Hymowitz. Anthropologist Lionel Tiger has a book advancing the same thesis. Other writers have also taken up this mantra.

But the evidence underpinning the case for male decline doesn’t add up. Most of it consists of the well-known facts that men now have slightly lower levels of educational attainment compared to women, and never-married men trail comparable women in income. However, there is no actual decline in male performance in either field. Rather, what has happened is that women are doing much better than before thanks to economic and social changes that have opened up new opportunities for them. When several European nations lifted legal disabilities imposed on Jews in the 19th century, the percentage of Jews in various occupations and educational institutions rapidly increased, and the percentage of gentiles in the same fields fell. Obviously, gentiles were not “in decline.” Rather, Jews were doing better because of the easing of discrimination against them. Much the same can be said of women over the last few decades. On balance, men actually benefit from the rise of women, just as gentiles benefited from that of the Jews. Everyone is better off when society is able to more fully benefit from developing the talents of more of its people.

Nineteenth and early century anti-Semitism flourished in part because many Europeans didn’t understand that the economy wasn’t a zero-sum game in which gains for Jews can only come at the expense of gentiles. Today’s fears that economic gains for women somehow harm men are similarly misplaced. Even if women end up out-earning [...]

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The “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011”

Thanks to commenter Ispep Teid for alerting me to this interesting Arizona statute, which was just signed by the governor on March 29:

A. A person … is guilty of a class 3 felony … [if he or she p]erforms an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex or race of the child or the race of a parent of that child….

B. The attorney general or the county attorney may bring an action in superior court to enjoin the activity described in subsection a of this section….

D. A physician, physician’s assistant, nurse, counselor or other medical or mental health professional who knowingly does not report known violations of this section to appropriate law enforcement authorities shall be subject to a civil fine of not more than ten thousand dollars.

E. A woman on whom a sex-selection or race-selection abortion is performed is not subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability for any violation of this section or for a conspiracy to violate this section.

F. For the purposes of this section, “abortion” has the same meaning prescribed in section 36-2151[: “Abortion” means the use of any means to terminate the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman with knowledge that the termination by those means will cause, with reasonable likelihood, the death of the unborn child. Abortion does not include birth control devices, oral contraceptives used to inhibit or prevent ovulation, conception or the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the uterus or the use of any means to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after a live birth, to terminate an ectopic pregnancy or to remove a dead fetus.] …

A person shall not knowingly perform or induce an abortion before that person completes

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