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1/22/14: Course Profile: Gender Issues and the Law

Release Date: 1/22/2014

Stereotypes and behavior based on a person’s sex permeate our society, raising questions and controversy as it relates to law. Gender Issues and the Law, taught by Professor Debra Gammons, examines aspects of legal issues that are rarely covered in a traditional law course like discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals, abortion, feminist theories and identity.

“Not only does this course help open minds through learning new perspectives, it prepares lawyers to communicate effectively and understand client constituencies more closely,” said Diversity Fellow Nick Shalosky, Office of Diversity Initiatives.

As students analyze cases beyond the Court’s ruling, they examine how stereotypes may shape people’s behavior. “The language used in the Court’s opinion and who uses that particular language shed light on the impact of the case,” said Gammons. She explained a U.S. Supreme Court case recently discussed in class that upheld the prohibition of a particular abortion procedure despite its effect on the health of the pregnant female, the majority (five Justices) was made up of five Caucasian Roman Catholic males.


Nick Shalosky and Professor Gammons

Discussions can sometimes get heated, but students learn to collaborate on ideas for solutions on inequality, discrimination and prejudice. “Professor Gammons encouraged each of us to think for ourselves and to express our thoughts with strong evidence and conviction,” Shalosky said. “Although we often disagreed, we all became close due to the nature of the conversations and the complete freedom to speak our minds.”

During his time as a student, Shalosky witnessed two gay-marriage cases United States v. Windsor and Perry v. Brown argued before the Supreme Court. “Professor Gammons was so supportive of my decision to attend the arguments, and contacted me while I was there for every detail,” said Shalosky.

Topics associated with other areas of law are prevalent in the course—from family law relating to issues of same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce; constitutional law in relation to freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal protection; as well as the workplace and society involving issues on the death of female executives and political leaders.

“I want them to see how they can make a positive difference as an attorney and as a responsible citizen,” said Gammons.

This course is currently offered on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Click here to view more unique courses offered this semester.

To learn more about Professor Gammons click here.

Story by: Kat Drerup
Photos by: Graham Ervin