AMHERST, Mass. – Angela Onwauchi-Willig, dean and professor of law at the Boston University School of Law, will deliver the annual Dean Alfange, Jr. Lecture in American Constitutionalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday, April 29 at 4 p.m. The online Zoom lecture is free and open to the public.
Onwauchi-Willig’s presentation, “Obergefell v. Hodges and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma,” will address the landmark case granting same-sex marriage equality across the United States.
After the decision was issued in Obergefell, in which the U.S Supreme Court held that prohibitions on same-sex marriage violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution, many scholars likened the historic decision to Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than take the usual path of examining the meaning of Obergefell for equality and the impact it has had on the legal landscape in the U.S., this lecture follows the path that the late professor Derrick Bell did in examining Brown v. Board of Education in his famous article “Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma.”
Bell argued that the outcome in Brown occurred only because the interests of Blacks in ending state-mandated racial segregation in public schools converged with the interests of the white decision-making elite on a variety of matters. Specifically, although the landmark decision was motivated in part by individual goodwill, it also was motivated in part by the nation’s desire to enhance its reputation on the international stage during the early stages of the Cold War.
Onwauchi-Willig’s lecture will consider whether Bell’s arguments about interest convergence and international policy influences also apply to Obergefell. After all, she says, understanding the impact of international policy concerns on cases like Obergefell may be useful in determining future strategies that can be employed to obtain further rights recognition for LGBTQ+ individuals and families in the United States and beyond. She says it also can shed light on how far society has come, or not come, when it comes to the reasons behind rights recognition and social change for historically disadvantaged groups.
A graduate of Grinnell College (B.A.), University of Michigan Law School (J.D.), and Yale University (Ph.D.), Onwuachi-Willig is dean and the Ryan Roth Gallo and Ernest J. Gallo Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law. Previously, she served as Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the 2013 book “According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family” and numerous articles in leading law journals. She is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, a former Iowa Supreme Court finalist, a recipient of the Law and Society Association’s John Hope Franklin Award, an elected member of the American Law Institute and the first professor (along with her co-author Dean Mario Barnes of the University of Washington School of Law) to receive both the Association of American Law Schools’ (AALS) Clyde Ferguson and Derrick Bell Awards.
The Dean Alfange, Jr. Lecture in American Constitutionalism was established in 2005 by UMass Amherst alumni to honor professor emeritus Dean Alfange, Jr. of the department of political science for his many noteworthy contributions during a distinguished 32-year academic career. The annual lecture is organized by the department of political science.
More information on the Alfange Lecture and a link to register for this year’s online event can be found at the department of political science website, and more information on Onwuachi-Willig can be found at the B.U. School of Law website.