Emerging Dilemmas in Law and Policy Across the Americas: Gender, Sexuality and Religion


Add to My Calendar Thursday, April 24, 2014 12:00am


Senior Staff Attorney Pam Spees will speak about our SMUG v. Lively case in a forum alongside legal scholars, policy practitioners, and religious studies scholars from across the Americas who will consider tensions—real and alleged—between religious freedom and social equality. The event is being hosted by NYU’s Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics.

This framing – religious liberty “versus” social equality for women and LGBT people – is happening across the Americas, but its specific forms, policy solutions, and vocabularies are not taking the same shape in each national context.

In the United States, for example, we see an amplification of rhetoric that pits the claims for equality and rights of LGBT people and women “against” the religious liberty of traditionalist opponents of, for example, homosexuality and abortion. But this is more than rhetoric: in March 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a major “religious liberty” challenge to the contraceptive provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and religious exemptions are the next frontier in the political and legal fight over same-sex marriage in the United States.

In Argentina, the Asosiación de Derechos Civiles (ADC) has challenged the compulsory teaching of Catholic education in public schools in the Province of Salta, calling it a violation of students’ rights to receive a secular education. In June 2013, the provincial Supreme Court upheld the Catholic curriculum. In their ruling, the Justices based their decision in part on the fact that a majority of citizens in that province are Catholic. The ADC is appealing the decision. Meanwhile, Christian communities in Chiapas and other parts of Mexico are demanding the right to home school children in a context where secular elementary education is compulsory.

These disputes across the Americas reveal the fractures and realignments that occur when the dominance or hegemony of particular religious institutions come under challenge, whether due to an increase in religious diversity and/or to changes at the level of the state. How are we to make sense of and respond to these phenomena? What critical tools are being used by local actors to respond to their specific national debates? How might we together develop analyses and activist tool-kits capable of thinking and acting across national boundaries and legal differences?

What: Forum on Religious Freedom “versus” Equal Rights? Emerging Dilemmas in Law and Policy Across the Americas: Gender, Sexuality, Religion
When: Thursday, April 24 from 2:00-6:00 p.m.
Where: Hemispheric Institute for Performance & Politics Conference Room; 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor
RSVP: Click here to RSVP on Facebook

*Free and open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible.


  • Lori A. Beaman, Economics, Northwestern University
  • Benjamin Berger, Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada
  • Marco Huaco, President & Founder, Institute Pro Religious Freedom and Public Affaires (PROLIBRE), Peru
  • Louise Melling, Center for Liberty, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Julieta Lemaitre Ripoll, Legal Theory, University of the Andes, Colombia
  • Pam Spees, Senior staff attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Nelson Tebbe, Brooklyn Law School
  • Juan Marco Vaggione, Sociology, School of Law, National University of Córdoba, Argentina, and the Argentinean National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET)
  • Rev. Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery

Last modified 

April 7, 2014