by Dan Urman, Director of Northeastern University’s Doctorate in Law and Policy. Urman is also a member of the ACS Boston Steering Committee.
On Dec. 12, as part of the ACS Boston Lawyer Chapter’s “Legal Legends in the Law” series, Laurence Tribe reflected on his remarkable career as a constitutional law professor and Supreme Court litigator. Tribe, Carl Loeb University Professor at Harvard University, began by providing an overview of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear two cases related to marriage equality: Windsor v. U.S. and Hollingsworth v. Perry. Disagreeing with popular news reports already predicting the outcome, Tribe argued that more than one justice is uncertain about how he or she will vote.
Tribe (pictured) has decades of experience writing, teaching, and litigating constitutional rights for gay and lesbian Americans, often at his professional peril. He referenced his discussion of sexual orientation in his 1978 Treatise, American Constitutional Law, taking a stance well outside of the legal and social “mainstream.” \Tribe argued that laws discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation were “indistinguishable from laws discriminating against individuals based on their race or gender.” Many friends and colleagues advised him against taking such a position publicly, because it could cost him a position on the U.S. Supreme Court. These warnings resurfaced when he prepared to testify against Judge Robert Bork’s 1987 Supreme Court nomination. Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) told Professor Tribe that it would be great to see “both of them (Bork and Tribe) on the Court,” and if Tribe testified against Bork, he would be “burning a bridge.” Twenty-five years later, Tribe said that if serving on the Court meant holding back his actual views, it was a bridge he did not want to cross.