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Course Descriptions
USC Gould School of Law

Equality and Difference     LAW-880

This seminar looks comparatively at the legal treatment of religious, racial, cultural, gender and sexual differences and differences in physical and mental ability. More specifically, it explores the question of whether the law should – and whether the law does – recognize these differences and, if so, how. Unlike other courses that focus principally on race or gender and sexuality as the prototypical examples of difference to which the law may or may not be blind, this seminar uses the legal principle of "accommodation" that has emerged in the areas of religious rights and disability rights as the paradigm. It uses the debates over accommodating disabilities and religious differences as a prism through which to think about the legal recognition of other kinds of difference. From an initial focus on current controversies over religious exemptions from civil rights laws and the Affordable Care Act, we move to an examination of the Deaf community to introduce the tension between integrationist and separatist principles in disability rights law. From there we will move to an examination of the debate in feminist legal theory over whether or not to recognize gender differences. The final weeks explore the broad concept of “culture,” and controversies over treating gender, sexuality, and race as cultures that need to be recognized. Controversies rage over whether it is appropriate to “accommodate” differences of one sort or otherwise recognize them. We will trace the arguments that have been made for and against the principle of accommodation on the basis of constitutional principles of liberty and equality and juxtapose the principle of accommodation to alternative forms of group “recognition” and to the competing principle that differences should be ignored in order to be overcome.

Units 2, 3
Grading Options Numeric Only
Exam Type Paper
Writing Requirement Yes, with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form
Skills/Experiential Requirement No

Grading Options: vary with the professor

Professors Teaching This Course