The Department of Political Science with Program in Legal Studies is hosting the 16th annual Dean Alfange Jr. Lecture in American Constitutionalism, featuring Dean and Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law, Angela Onwauchi-Willig.
Obergefell v. Hodges and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma?
After Obergefell was issued, the case in which the U.S Supreme Court held that prohibitions on same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution, many scholars likened the historic decision to Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than take the usual path of examining the meaning of Obergefell for equality and the impact it has had on the legal landscape in the United States, this lecture follows the path that the late Professor Derrick Bell did in examining Brown v. Board of Education in his famous article Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma. Professor Bell argued that the outcome in Brown occurred only because the interests of Blacks in ending state-mandated racial segregation in public schools converged with the interests of the white decision-making elite on a variety of matters. Specifically, although the landmark decision was motivated in part by individual goodwill, it also was motivated in part by the nation’s desire to enhance its reputation on the international stage during the early stages of the Cold War. This lecture considers whether Professor Bell’s arguments about interest convergence and international policy influences also apply to Obergefell. After all, understanding the impact of international policy concerns on cases like Obergefell may be useful in determining future strategies that can be employed to obtain further rights recognition for LGBTQ+ individuals and families in the United States and beyond. It also can shed light on how far society has come, or not come, when it comes to the reasons behind rights recognition and social change for historically disadvantaged groups.