Psychologist’s research supports gay marriage decision

When a panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana this week, the justices cited work by UC Davis professor of psychology Gregory Herek.

In the 40-page opinion, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote, “…there is little doubt that sexual orientation, the ground of the discrimination, is an immutable (and probably an innate, in the sense of in-born) characteristic rather than a choice.” Posner cited a paper published by Herek and colleagues in 2010, which found that 95 percent of gay men and 84 percent of lesbians perceived they had little or no choice about their sexual orientation.

Pirates, mercenaries and international law

UC Davis law student Ansel Halliburton has posted an interesting paper discussing the legal issues raised by how shipping companies might defend themselves from Somali pirates. Here is the abstract:

Because of the recent surge in piracy emanating from the failed state of Somalia, the world’s navies have focused unprecedented resources and attention on the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Despite a few successes, this military might has largely failed to reverse the tide of piracy. Shipping companies have begun to hire armed private guards to protect their vessels and crew where the public navies cannot. But should private force take a larger role? Should shipping companies hire mercenaries to go on the offensive against pirates? Does, or should, international law allow them to do so? This paper surveys public international law, emerging transnational criminal law, human rights and humanitarian law, and the histories of piracy and transnational private violence in search of answers.

How the law ignores a fifth of the population

Legal scholarship barely acknowledges the one-fifth of the U.S. population that lives in rural areas, writes law professor Lisa Pruitt on the School of Law’s faculty blog. Pruitt, who grew up in rural Arkansas, writes that the ‘urban’ population seems to have become the norm in legal writings, with little attention to the needs of rural people.

The law school’s faculty blog, by the way, is full of interesting reading, including intellectual property and copyright law, immigration, family law, corporate law and all the other topics in which our law professors have expertise.

Law School faculty on Justice Stevens

UC Davis law professor Diane Marie Amann was a former law clerk with retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and has been quoted by a number of media outlets since Stevens announced his retirement last week

“He is undoubtedly a leader on the court,” she told CNN, “and although the vote change [on a 5-4 conservative majority] may not alter very much in the short run, the absence of Justice Stevens’ leadership, his ability to build coalitions along people with very different ideas about things, will be something that will be hard to replace in the short term.”

UC Davis expert testifies at Prop 8 trial

UC Davis psychology professor Gregory Herek is testifying today for plaintiffs seeking to overturn Proposition 8, the state ballot measure passed in 2008 that bans gay marriage in California. Herek, an internationally recognized authority on prejudice against lesbians and gay men, testified this morning that for gays and lesbians, the distinction between ‘marriage’ and a ‘domestic partnership’ was about more than just words. He also testified that research shows that gays and lesbians do not choose their sexual orientation and that they are subject to stigma.

How should Senator Kennedy’s seat be filled?

On, UC Davis constitutional law expert Vikram Amar discusses the issues around filling the late Senator Kennedy’s seat. The Seventeenth Amendment permits, but does not require, state legislators to authorize governors to appoint someone to fill a vacant seat until a new election can be held. Massachusetts, like most states, did have this system until 2004, but changed it that year apparently to block a Republican Governor from filling Sen. John Kerry’s seat, had he won the Presidential election that year.

Health care reform debate rages on

Contributed by Clifton Parker

For the next month, Congress will undertake the daunting feat of trying to solve the nation’s health care woes.

Given the complexity, real change, if any, is likely to be more incremental than substantive, say UC Davis faculty members. The crux of the issue is who gets health care coverage and who has to pay for it.

Economic historian Peter Lindert says the “angel and devil are both in the details.” A unified and competitive health care plan can work extremely well, he believes, but only if policymakers get the details right. With skyrocketing cost, one might think the urgency is clear — but this actually makes a deal more difficult.

Law profs blog live on Prop 8 noon today

The Sacramento Bee will host a live debate on the California Supreme Court’s ruling upholding Proposition 8 at noon today. The panelists are Vikram Amar, professor and associate dean of the UC Davis law school; Professor Alan Brownstein, an expert on constitutional law at UC Davis; and John Cary Sims, a professor at McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific.

Law dean welcomes Obama’s SCOTUS pick

Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law, welcomed President Obama’s selection of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court yesterday.

“It’s an amazing nomination,” Johnson told the Sacramento Bee. “He has hit the ball out of the proverbial park.” Johnson went on to say that Sotomayor was likely to disappoint both liberals (by not being liberal enough) and conservatives (by being a Democrat) but that she would have a huge impact on the court.

As the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court, Sotomayor is “pathbreaking,” Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci,  comparing her appointment to that of Thurgood Marshall.

Religious freedom and gay marriage

States that recognize gay marriage should protect the rights of individuals who object to gay marriage on religious grounds, but should take care not to infringe the new rights of gay and lesbian couples, writes UC Davis law professor Alan Brownstein in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.

For example, clergy should be able to decline to perform a religious marriage ceremony if it conflicts with their beliefs — but a religiously-affiliated hospital should not be able to deny visitation and decision-making rights to gay couples, he writes.