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Constitutional Law Scholar Visits Law School

September 17, 2010

Constitutional scholar Michael C. Dorf visited the law school on Sept. 16 to present a faculty workshop, “Same-Sex Marriage, Second-Class Citizenship and Law’s Social Meaning.”

The Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Dorf is one of the leading constitutional scholars in the nation, the co-author (with Laurence Tribe) of “On Reading the Constitution,” and the founder of the influential blog, Dorf on Law.

During a faculty workshop, Dorf offered a framework for upholding the rights of same-sex couples to marry based on constitutional prohibitions against government treatment of any class of individuals as second-class citizens.

While the government is permitted to express disapproval of behaviors like teen smoking, Dorf said, stigmatizing same-sex couples conveys a social message that could be vulnerable to constitutional challenge.

“The Constitution forbids government from speaking in ways that have a social meaning of treating some persons as second-class citizens,” he said.