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William Eskridge, Mediating LGBTQ Equality & Religious Liberty Clashes

William Eskridge Jr., the John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School, delivered the Eighth Annual Joseph Smith Lecture on Sept. 22, 2022, entitled “Mediating LGBTQ Equality & Religious Liberty Clashes: the Role of Statutory Principles.”






Professor Eskridge has written extensively on constitutional law, legislation and statutory interpretation, religion, marriage equality, and gay rights. Both in the courts and in print, he has long argued for legislative reform and represented litigants on gay rights. The effectiveness of his arguments can be measured by jurist Richard Posner’s 2015 reevaluation of Eskridge’s 1996 book The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment: “Eskridge’s position has triumphed. It’s a shame that Justice Kennedy’s [Obergefell] opinion did not cite his book. . . . A prophet before his time, William Eskridge has the satisfaction of having finally been vindicated.”*

Professor Eskridge’s standing in the profession is also marked by his field-establishing book on the evolution and judicial interpretation of statutes, now in its 6th edition and followed by what have become classic articles in the field of legislation. This work, too, is central to Professor Eskridge’s authority to speak on strategies for achieving long-term solutions to the ongoing conflict between two of our most treasured Constitutional principles: equal protection and religious freedom.

The day following his Smith Lecture, Professor Eskridge was joined by three colleagues on a panel jointly sponsored by the UVA Mormon Studies Program and the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy. Moderated by UVA Law professor Craig Konnoth, the panel continued the Lecture’s theme of reconciling LGBTQ+ rights and religious freedom. The other members of the panel were Christine Meaders Durham, senior of counsel for litigation, Wilson Sonsini, and former chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court; Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project; and Robin Fretwell Wilson, director, Institute of Government and Public Affairs and Mildred Van Voorhis, Jones Chair in Law, Illinois College of Law. Courtesy of the UVA Karsh Center, a video and transcript of this event is provided below.



* Richard A. Posner, “Eighteen Years On: A Re-Review (reviewing William N. Eskridge, Jr., The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment (1996)),” 125 Yale Law Journal 533 (2015).


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