Professor Adam Winkler

  • February 23, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Social conservatives, led, in part, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, continuing to grumble about the Obama administration’s health care policy that requires health insurance companies to provide contraceptives to women, even those employed by companies with religious affiliations, are now looking to the federal courts to overturn the policy.

    The Becket Fund, a Religious Right legal outfit, sued the administration in federal court earlier this week arguing that the policy, a part of the Affordable Care Act, violates the religious liberty rights of Ave Maria University in Florida. Ave Maria, a Catholic institution, states that it “pledges faithfulness to the teachings of the Church,” and is “known for its exceptional academics, faithfulness to the magisterium of the Catholic Church ….”

    In a press statement announcing the lawsuit, Jim Towey, the university’s president, and former head of President George W. Bush’s faith-based office, claimed the “federal government has no right to coerce the University into funding contraceptives services that include abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization, in the health plan we offer our employees.”

    Towey further declares that under the administration’s health care policy Ave Maria would be required to pay for contraceptives, and therefore is “prepared to discontinue our health plan and pay the $2,000 per employee, per year fine rather than comply with an unjust, immoral mandate in violation of our rights of conscience.”

    In the same statement, the Becket Fund’s Kyle Duncan asserts that the health care policy forces the religious school to either betray its beliefs or dump employees’ health benefits.

  • July 4, 2011

    New York’s dramatic approval of marriage equality, as important to the advancement of equal rights as it was, should not lull progressives into the belief that the nation is on the verge of overcoming its prejudices against the LGBT community and ready to embrace equality for all.

    As a piece in today’s New York Times notes, the four Republican state senators who joined with state Democrats to approve the measure, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly signed into law, are facing a multi-million dollar effort to unseat them by a Religious Right outfit called the National Organization for Marriage.

    And Scott Lemieux, an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, writes in an article for The American Prospect that despite the plaudits from pundits on the marriage equality victory in N.Y., supporters of equality will need to keep all options open, including the courts. He says the “past warns against complacency.”

    Lemieux continues:

    In the words of political scientists Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith, the history of civil rights is “an unsteady march” in which incomplete victories and outright reversals are common. Both before the Civil War and after Reconstruction, voting and other civil rights for African Americans were curtailed substantially. After an initial trend of liberalization in certain states in the 1950s and 1960s, it became almost impossible to further expand access to abortion laws until the Supreme Court intervened in 1973. Public and elite opinion seemed to be turning against the death penalty in the late 1960s, but a decade later, a majority of states had the death penalty and executions were on the rise.

    UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler, writing for The Huffington Post, says it’s long past time for President Obama to show some boldness on the matter of marriage equality.

    Saying that July 4 is for “commemorating the boldness of our founders, whose Revolution was anything but a foreordained victory,” Winkler writes:

    Today we stand at a crossroads. Will we allow gays and lesbians to finally become full partners in the American experiment, or will we continue to repress and discriminate against them?

    That is the question Americans, especially President Obama, must ask. Like the founders, we should determine the answer by looking at polling results or pondering how it will affect the next election. We should ask instead what our answer means for our core principles. We should ask how we can live up to the spirit of ’76.

  • June 27, 2011

    The year has “seen a remarkable shift” ushering some big victories for the advancement of equality for members of the LGBT community, and some of those victories included tremendous help from Republicans writes UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler.

    In a piece for The Huffington Post, Winkler notes the lawsuit lodged by “an all-star legal team that included Ted Olson, the Republican lawyer who helped George W. Bush” capture the White House in 2000, which led to an opinion by then federal court Judge Vaughn Walker striking California’s anti-gay marriage law known as Proposition 8. The repeal of the military’s noxious “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” policy was also helped by Republicans, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

    And then, of course, there were the four Republican New York State Senators who joined with Democrats in passing a marriage equality bill this past weekend; a really, really big deal, as blogger Andrew Sullivan noted.

    Winkler continues:

    Of course, no one should give all or even most of the credit for such important developments to the Republican Party, which remains the home of gay rights opponents. Still, many of the changes of the past year would not have been possible had only Democrats supported them. Moreover, for these advances in gay rights to last, they need bipartisan backing. We’re just beginning to see that happen, thanks to a handful of courageous Republicans who see that discrimination against gays and lesbians violates core American values of equality, dignity, and individual liberty.

    The New York Times in two editorials on the historic N.Y. action also said that the four Republicans share credit for the marriage equality bill that passed the state legislature.

    But The Times noted that the Republicans led by State Sen. Stephen Saland “insisted on language that carves out exceptions for religious institutions and not-for-profit corporations affiliated with tax-exempt religious entities to refuse to marry a same-sex couple or to allow the use of their buildings or services for weddings or wedding parties. There was simply no need for these exemptions, since churches are protected under both the federal Constitution and New York law from being required to marry anyone against their beliefs.”

    The Times rightly concluded that those Republican-led exemptions are laden with “discriminatory intent.”

    In its second editorial, The Times blasted President Obama for his difficulty in supporting marriage equality, which may not help with the Right, but could “help him among his cheerless base.”

  • May 16, 2011

    The effort by proponents of California’s anti-gay marriage law, Proposition 8, to invalidate last year’s federal court opinion finding it unconstitutional because the judge who issued the opinion is gay reveals the wobbly arguments against marriage equality, writes UCLA law professor Adam Winkler.

    In this piece for The Huffington Post, Winkler says “ironies abound” over the marriage equality opponents’ arguments that the opinion should be invalidated because Judge Vaughn R. Walker (pictured), now retired, “stood to gain personally from ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.” That is, Winkler notes, if California were to recognize same-sex marriage, Walker might be “able to take advantage of that opportunity and secure any and all of the benefits that accrue from marriage.”

    Winkler continues:

    Writing in the National Review Online, conservative legal commentator Ed Whelan admits that marriage is a "valuable legal right." That is correct -- and exactly why states shouldn't be able to deny gays and lesbians the ability to marry. It's a violation of the Constitution's command that all people be afforded "equal protection of the laws" to deny people fundamental rights on the basis of irrelevant characteristics, like their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. Yet that is precisely what the ban on same-sex marriage does.

    Implicit in Proposition 8 supporters' effort to recuse Judge Walker is the notion that, unlike a gay judge who might benefit from marriage, a heterosexual judge would be impartial. But to accept that notion, we must reject another central claim in the case against same-sex marriage: that gay marriage undermines the traditional institution marriage.

  • April 15, 2011

    The Arizona governor will soon decide whether to lift that state’s ban on firearms on campus, but whether she does or not is unlikely to have an impact on campus gun violence, writes UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler in an op-ed for The New York Times.

    Winkler, author of a forthcoming book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, says colleges and universities have traditionally been “gun-free zones,” but that the efforts to persuade the governor to lift the ban is more about shaping perceptions of guns.

    If more people see others openly carrying guns around all kinds of public places, such as colleges and universities, bars, churches, synagogues, mosques, malls, and whatnot, maybe tolerance of gun lovers will bloom, and gun control advocates will back off. Winkler notes that “visibility of gay couples in society and popular culture has led many Americans to realize that homosexuality is not wrong. Gun advocates are betting the same can happen with firearms,” though he calls it a risky strategy.

    And the professor says he’s not convinced that the laws banning firearms on campus are much of deterrent to persons bent on violence.

    He says:

    As a professor, I’d feel safer if guns were not permitted on campus. I worry more about being the target of a student upset about failing grades than about a mass killer roaming the hallways.

    But there is little evidence to support my gut feeling. Utah, for example, has not seen an increase in campus gun violence since it changed its law in 2006. And a disturbed student can simply sneak a gun on campus in his backpack, as the Virginia Tech killer did in 2007. Indeed, lost in the debate is the fact that guns, being easy to conceal, are almost certainly on campus already.