Who's the Bigot? Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law

Linda C. McClain, Boston University School of Law

Thu, 04/02/2020 - 12:00pm
A71 Louis A . Simpson International Building
Princeton University Community: Faculty, Fellows, Students, Staff

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Please join us for a book talk with Linda C. McClain, to discuss Who's the Bigot?  Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law.

From the Publisher: "Historically, critics of interracial, interfaith, and most recently same-sex marriage have invoked conscience and religious liberty to defend their objections, and often they have been accused of bigotry. Although denouncing and preventing bigotry is a shared political value with a long history, people disagree over who is a bigot and what makes a belief, attitude, or action bigoted. This is evident from the rejoinder that calling out bigotry is intolerant political correctness, even bigotry itself.

In Who's the Bigot?, the eminent legal scholar Linda C. McClain traces the rhetoric of bigotry and conscience across a range of debates relating to marriage and antidiscrimination law. Is "bigotry" simply the term society gives to repudiated beliefs that now are beyond the pale? She argues that the differing views people hold about bigotry reflect competing understandings of what it means to be "on the wrong side of history" and the ways present forms of discrimination resemble or differ from past forms. Furthermore, McClain shows that bigotry has both a backward- and forward-looking dimension. We not only learn the meaning of bigotry by looking to the past, but we also use examples of bigotry, on which there is now consensus, as the basis for making new judgments about what does or does not constitute bigotry and coming to new understandings of both injustice and justice.

By examining charges of bigotry and defenses based on conscience and religious belief in these debates, Who's the Bigot? makes a novel and timely contribution to our understanding of the relationship between religious liberty and discrimination in American life."

Linda C. McClain
Professor in the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program
Boston University

Linda C. McClain is the Robert B. Kent Professor at Boston University School of Law. She also teaches in BU's Kilachand Honors College. An internationally known scholar, she has written extensively about marriage, family law, civil rights law, gender equality and law, feminist legal theory, and law and religion. She has held fellowships at the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University, and the Safra Center at Harvard University. Her previous books include The Place of Families: Fostering Capacity, Equality, and ResponsibilityOrdered Liberty: Rights, Responsibilities, and Virtues (with James E. Fleming), Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women's Equal Citizenship (co-edited with Joanna Grossman and cited in the credits for On the Basis of Sex), and What Is Parenthood? Contemporary Debates About the Family. A graduate of Oberlin College, she has an M.A. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and an LL.M. from NYU School of Law. In her spare time, she enjoys playing classical piano.