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Like Thinking? Check Out the Williams Institute Conference Saturday: Are LGBT People Politically Equal?

By Karen Ocamb
News Editor

Every year the extraordinary Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law & Public Policy sponsors an annual update on issues concerning the LGBT community. It’s a virtual Lollapalooza for LGBT thinkers, legal and intellectual activists!

Fittingly, given the hectic election year politics, this year the topic of the April 13-14 conference at the UCLA School of Law is: Fair Play? LGBT People, Civic Participation & Political Process:

We participate in our democracy by voting, having issues we care about voted upon, running for office, serving on juries and being counted in the Census. This year’s conference will explore whether, in 2012, LGBT people are equal participants in the political process or still relegated to second-class citizenship by discrimination and bias.

Remember all that consternation when Williams Institute scholar Gary Gates reported that, based on his analysis of 11 large U.S. surveys, he estimated that the LGBT population is not 10 percent of the U.S. population as is regularly reported but closer to 3.8 percent? That’s nearly 9 million Americans, the equivalent of the population of New Jersey, but nonetheless there was an uproar. This year the keynote address will be given by U.S. Census Director Robert Groves, who is intent on improving the accuracy and validity of data collected about same-sex couples.

And at 2 p.m., check out this one: MAJORITY RULE: LGBT ISSUES AT THE BALLOT BOX

For decades, ballot measures to restrict LGBT rights have played dominant roles in the LGBT movement. More recently, those opposing LGBT rights have sought to use the ballot box while limiting public information about their supporters and funders, and LGBT advocates are starting to use proactive ballot campaigns to secure equality. Considering Perry v. Brown, the federal Prop. 8 challenge, as a case study, how does it affect litigation when the anti-gay law being tested was enacted by popular vote? Looking ahead to the coming elections, is public understanding shifting sufficiently to allow campaigns to succeed on questions of LGBT equality? This panel will explore these and other emerging issues when LGBT rights are determined at the ballot box.

Therese Stewart
, Chief Deputy City Attorney, San Francisco City Attorney’s Office
Patrick Guerriero
, Founding Partner, Civitas Public Affairs Group LLC
Jon W. Davidson
, Legal Director, Lambda Legal
Moderated by Jennifer C. Pizer, Legal Director and Arnold D. Kassoy Senior Scholar of Law, The Williams Institute 

The closing keynote also looks to be powerful: ARE LGBT PEOPLE POLITICALLY POWERLESS TODAY?

The closing keynote address will address the question of whether LGBT individuals are still a politically powerless minority deserving of judicial protection in this country. In both granting and withholding such protection, the Court has often focused on political powerlessness as a precondition for heightened scrutiny. In the context of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, how should we assess relative political power and vulnerability for heightened scrutiny purposes?

Kenji Yoshino
, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University School of Law
With Introduction by Brad Sears, Executive Director, Roberta A. Conroy Scholar of Law and Policy, The Williams Institute

For a day made for people who think thinking about LGBT issues is fun and important (see more info below)—the conference runs 9-6:30 p.m. (with lunch and breaks), at the UCLA School of Law in Westwood, Room 1357. RSVP, visit:

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