Sex, Politics & the Law: Lesbians & Gay Men Take the Offensive–Preface


On February 22, 1986, the New York University Review of Law & Social Change sponsored a day-long symposium entitled “Sex, Politics and the Law:Lesbians & Gay Men Take the Offensive.” The articles that follow are edited selections of papers presented at the Symposium, several of which have been revised in light of the United States Supreme Court decision in Bowers v.Hardwick. The reasons for committing the Review’s resources and reputation to the topic of lesbian and gay rights include both pragmatic and political considerations. At the time of the Editorial Board’s decision to sponsor the Symposium and solicit papers for publication, few other journals had devoted substantial effort to the topic of lesbian and gay rights. Thus, from a practical viewpoint, the Board recognized an immediate opportunity to contribute to this emerging body of literature.

More importantly, however, the Review sought to address an important social issue in its sponsorship and publication of this symposium on lesbian and gay civil rights. Even before Bowers, the legal status of lesbians and gay men was disappointing. In arenas as diverse as immigration, first amendment rights, child custody, the military, and health law, gay people have suffered major defeats. In the post-Hardwick world, the legal position of lesbians and gay men is dismal: far from recognizing sexual minorities as equals, the Hardwick Court upheld the criminal status of lesbians and gay men in nearly half the jurisdictions of the United States. The need for effective civil rights advocacy in this area has never been greater.

Suggested Reading

This is an excerpt from Kenji Yoshino’s new book, Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial. In his book, Professor Yoshino explores the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial, which he calls “one of the most powerful civil rights trials in American history.” Professor Yoshino