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Russell Robinson, Law, UC Berkeley School of Law

  • When: November 3, 2021, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

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Marriage Equality and Intersectionality

The goal of this study is to reveal how the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality impacted a diverse group of sexual and gender minorities. Prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) figures have argued that marriage is an oppressive institution and that legalizing same-sex marriage would not benefit the most marginalized members of the community, particularly Black people. Until now, there have been few resources for comparing these claims of scholars and activists with those of members of the communities they claim to represent. Inspired by Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, this study centered LGBTQ people of color’s lived experiences. A purposive sample of 99 LGBTQ people in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco were asked whether and how the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges(2015) personally impacted them. Most participants described an emotional impact. Relatively few criticized marriage as “heteronormative” or unfit for LGBTQ people. Black participants were less likely than participants of other races to criticize marriage as an institution. Moreover, Black and Latinx participants articulated a more expansive, equality-focused understanding of the right to marry than the Court itself articulated. They understood the marriage decision as carrying the potential to empower and elevate their identities in various contexts. For these people, the marriage equality movement was centrally about equality rather than marriage.

Photo and bio courtesy of UC Berkeley School of Law.

Prior to joining UC Berkeley, Russell Robinson was Professor of Law at UCLA. Robinson graduated with honors from Harvard Law School (1998), after receiving his B.A. summa cum laude from Hampton University (1995). Robinson clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1998-99) and for Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court (2000-01). He has also worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel (1999-2000) and the firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld in Los Angeles, practicing entertainment law (2001-02).

Robinson’s scholarly and teaching interests include antidiscrimination law, race and sexuality, law and psychology, constitutional law, and media and entertainment law. His publications include: “’Playing It Safe’ with Empirical Evidence: Selective Use of Social Science in Supreme Court Cases About Racial Justice and Marriage Equality,” 112 Northwestern Law Rev. 1565 (2018); “LGBT Equality and Sexual Racism,” 86 Fordham L. Rev. 2739 (2018); “The Afterlife of Homophobia,” 60 Ariz. L. Rev. 213 (2018); “Unequal Protection,” 67 Stan. L. Rev. (2015); “Diverging Identities,” in After Marriage: The Future of LGBT Rights, NYU Press (2015); “Marriage Equality and Postracialism,” 61 UCLA L. Rev. 1010 (2014); “Masculinity as Prison: Sexual Identity, Race, and Incarceration,” 99 Calif. L. Rev. 1309 (2011); “Casting and Caste-ing: Reconciling Artistic Freedom and Antidiscrimination Norms,” 95 Calif. L. Rev. 1 (2007); “Uncovering Covering,” 101 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1809 (2007); “Perceptual Segregation,” 108 Colum. L. Rev. 1093 (2008); “Structural Dimensions of Romantic Preferences,” 76 Fordham L. Rev. 2787 (2008); and “Racing the Closet,” 61 Stan. L. Rev. 1463 (2009).

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