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News Posted on February 13, 2014

UC Davis Law Review Hosts Successful Marriage Equality Symposium

The 2014 UC Davis Law Review Symposium drew an impressive turnout of legal practitioners, faculty, students, alumni, and others for discussions of marriage equality featuring distinguished legal scholars from the King Hall faculty and law schools around the nation. The event, titled "Not Equal Yet: Building upon Foundations of Relationship Equality," included a keynote address from Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Irvine School of Law.

In his lecture, Chemerinsky expressed his confidence that state laws banning same-sex marriage will soon be declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Popular opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of same-sex marriage, he noted, and opponents have been unable to articulate a legitimate government interest that is served by keeping gays and lesbians from being able to marry. "The Justices will have to ask themselves: do they want to write the next Plessy versus Ferguson or the next Brown versus Board of Education?" Chemerinsky said. "There is no doubt where history is going on this issue."

Chemerinsky said that the rapid shift in public opinion was due in part to a "brilliant legal strategy" that focused on state rather than federal courts.  This kept same-sex marriage out of the Supreme Court, where a setback could have been devastating, and allowed states "to be the laboratory for marriage equality." Although the battle for full equality is not yet won, the legal system has clearly played an important role in bringing about social change with regard to the rights of gays and lesbians, he said. "It's not that the courts can do it alone, but that courts are essential to bringing about social change, and that courts do bring about change in decisions like the ones we're talking about today," said Chemerinsky.

The symposium included a morning session that featured Associate Dean Vikram Amar in a discussion of constitutional issues related to the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality cases U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. The panel was moderated by Professor Carlton Larson and included Professor David Cruz of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, Professor Katie Eyer of Rutgers School of Law, and Professor Steven Smith of the University of San Diego School of Law.

The afternoon session featured a panel discussion of Religious Exemptions that included Professors Alan Brownstein and Brian Soucek, as well as Tobias Wolff of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois College of Law. Also taking place that afternoon was a panel on Family Structure and Relationships moderated by Professor Lisa Ikemoto and featuring Professor Courtney Joslin and UC Davis Psychology Professor Gregory Herek in addition to Professor Catherine Smith of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Professor Susannah Pollvogt of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.