Katie Eyer, Rutgers School of Law

Protected Class Rational Basis Review: A (Re)New(ed) Approach to Race and Gender Justice Under the Constitution

Mon, 12/07/2015
301 Marx Hall
Event Category: 

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Katie Eyer, Associate Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School - Camden, who will present “Protected Class Rational Basis Review: A (Re)New(ed) Approach to Race and Gender Justice Under the Constitution."  The commentator is Dara Strolovitch, Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton.  

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  "It is commonplace today to associate rational basis review exclusively with groups that are not formally afforded heightened scrutiny under the Supreme Court’s Equal Protection precedents; groups like gays and lesbians, the disabled and illegal immigrants. In contrast, rational basis review is rarely thought of as protecting those groups, such as racial minorities and women, that have secured “protected class” status. This Article challenges this common conception, and argues that there are reasons why “protected classes” too might predictably be expected to benefit from more meaningful forms of rational basis scrutiny.  Drawing on historical materials from the mid-1970s, this Article makes the case that robust rational basis review can play (and once did play) a critical role in alleviating limited judicial conceptions of what race or sex discrimination “is” (e.g., unwillingness to characterize things like disparate impact as a form of discrimination)." 

Katie Eyer joined the Rutgers Law faculty as an Assistant Professor in June 2012.  Her work, which takes multidisciplinary approaches to questions of contemporary anti-discrimination law, has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review and the Southern California Law Review.  Her recent publication, titled "Constitutional Colorblindness and the Family," was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2013 AALS Scholarly Papers Competition, where it was described by the selection committee as "saying something new and compelling about constitutional colorblindness."  Prior to coming to Rutgers, Katie was an anti-discrimination litigator with a specialization in LGBT employment discrimination and a Research Scholar and Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality. 

Dara Z. Strolovitch is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Politics at Princeton University, where she also teaches in the Center for African American Studies.  Prior to joining the faculty at Princeton, she was Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota.  She received her B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Vassar College and her Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University.  Her research combines qualitative, quantitative, and interpretive methods to explore the intersecting politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality in a polity marked by enduring, overlapping, and structural inequalities.  Her 2007 book,Affirmative Advocacy: Race, Class, and Gender in Interest Group Politics addressed these issues by examining the extent to which and the ways in which advocates for women, people of colour, and low-income people represent intersectionally marginalized subgroups of their constituencies.  Affirmative Advocacy was awarded the APSA’s Gladys Kammerer Award for the best book on U.S. national policy, APSA’s Political Organizations and Parties section's Leon Epstein Award, the American Sociological Association's Race, Gender, and Class section's Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award, and the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action’s Virginia Hodgkinson Prize.  Her current book project, tentatively titled When Bad Things Happen to Privileged People, examines the political construction of crises and their implications for marginalized groups.