This course will survey legal developments in sexual orientation and gender identity under national and international law.

Part One will consider sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected categories under international human rights instruments and under selected pieces of human rights legislation around the world. It will review the history and current status of sodomy laws and how these laws are being challenged in court actions around the world. This part will also examine the decisions from the Supreme Court of India which upheld that nation’s sodomy laws but that also granted legal recognition to a third gender that is neither male nor female.

Part Two will consider rapidly changing developments in recognizing same-sex partnerships. Using a framework of international human rights instruments on privacy and the family, this part of the course will examine legal, social, religious, and political arguments for and against same-sex marriage. It will consider distinctions between civil and religious marriage and examine alternatives to civil marriage, including the Swiss Registered Partnerships approved by national referendum in Switzerland in 2005. During this part of the course we will comprehensively review the rapidly changing status of same-sex marriage around the world, from its first recognition in the Netherlands and Canada to the most recent national vote for full same-sex marriage in Ireland and upcoming votes in Australia. We will examine in detail the U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage expected at the end of June 2015. This part of the course will also consider legal problems that can arise when lawfully married same-sex couples travel to jurisdictions where same-sex marriages are not recognized.

Part Three will consider the rights of LGBT persons in countries that still criminalize homosexuality, sometimes even with the death penalty. It will also consider the Russian anti-gay-propaganda legislation and other anti-gay measures, including so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. And it time allows, we will also briefly explore sexual orientation as a protected category for political asylum and other legal issues.