By Melinda Rogers
The actions of Kentucky Court Clerk Kim Davis —who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs—has renewed intense debate over religious freedom versus civil liberties in today’s world.
Davis spent five days in jail after ignoring a court order that she issue marriage licenses to all couples, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that legalized gay marriage. Her actions drew both ire and support, and the high profile case is one example of many cases before legislatures and courts that have addressed conflicts between civil rights and religious liberties.
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court upheld a closely held corporation’s right not to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives that violate the sincerely-held religious beliefs of the company’s owners. In the past year, federal and state courts have rejected the objections of bakers, photographers, and county clerks who have refused to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds, while state legislatures have considered various proposals to protect civil rights and religious liberties.
To many observers, these cases present fundamental conflicts between equality and freedom. Is the framework valid? How can such be addressed? Is new legislation necessary, or does the Constitution already provide sufficient safeguards for the protection of civil rights and religious liberties? Can legislatures find live-and-let live solutions that protect both values?
The University of Utah on Oct.7 will host two of the nation’s leading experts to explore this evolving and timely topic for the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s 32nd Annual Jefferson Fordham Debate.
The Fordham Debate is named in honor of professor Jefferson B. Fordham, an outstanding legal scholar and defender of individual and civil rights who joined the University of Utah College of Law faculty in 1972. The annual debate addresses relevant contemporary public policy and legal issues.
This year’s event includes Luke Goodrich and Mary Anne Case. Goodrich is deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm that has successfully litigated several religious freedom cases before the Supreme Court.
Case is the Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and a prominent scholar of the legal regulation of sexuality, gender and sex. In this year’s Fordham Debate, Goodrich and Case will debate the following statement: “Conflicts between civil rights and religious liberties can be addressed by adopting viable compromise solutions that protect both sides.”
S.J. Quinney College of Law Dean Bob Adler noted that Fordham, the school’s former dean who died in 1994, would have been pleased that the 2015 debate named in his honor tackles issues of civil rights and appropriate constitutional balances that Fordham addressed throughout his distinguished academic career.”
Debater Profiles: A Closer Look
Mary Anne Case
A graduate of Yale College and the Harvard Law School, Mary Anne Case studied at the University of Munich; litigated for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison in New York; and was professor of law and class of 1966 research professor at the University of Virginia before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School. She was a visiting professor in autumn of 1998 and at New York University during the 1996–97 academic year and the spring of 1999. She has also served as Bosch Public Policy Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin for the spring of 2004, Crane Fellow in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University for the 2006–07 academic year, and Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor at Columbia Law School for the spring of 2013. Among the subjects she has taught are feminist jurisprudence, constitutional law, regulation of sexuality, marriage, family law, sex discrimination, religious freedom and European legal systems. She is the convener of the Workshop on Regulating Family, Sex and Gender. While her diverse research interests include German contract law and the First Amendment, her scholarship to date has concentrated on the regulation of sex, gender, and sexuality, and on the early history of feminism. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including the Yale Journal of Law, the Stanford Law Review and the Supreme Court Review.
Luke Goodrich joined the Becket Fund as legal counsel in 2008. Since then, he has represented religious organizations and individuals in a wide array of religious liberty disputes at both the trial and appellate level, including cases brought under the free exercise clause, establishment clause, free speech clause and major civil rights statutes. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, where he teaches constitutional law. During his time at Becket, Goodrich has argued and won precedent-setting cases in the 3rd, 5th, 9th and 11th circuits. In 2009, he was appointed a special assistant attorney general for the State of Colorado to argue an establishment clause appeal on behalf the Becket Fund and several states. He was part of the Becket Fund legal team that won three major Supreme Court cases in three years: Holt v. Hobbs (2014), which protected the right of a Muslim to practice his faith in prison; Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014), which protected family business owners from being forced to violate their faith; and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (2012), which protected the right of churches to select their ministers. The Wall Street Journal called Hosanna-Tabor one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.
Melinda Rogers is a communications specialist at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.