Monday, March 2, 2020

McClain, "Who's the Bigot? Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law"

New from Oxford University Press: Who's the Bigot? Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law, by Linda C. McClain (Boston University School of Law). A description from the Press:
Historically, critics of interracial, interfaith, and most recently same-sex marriage have invoked conscience and religious liberty to defend their objections, and often they have been accused of bigotry. Although denouncing and preventing bigotry is a shared political value with a long history, people disagree over who is a bigot and what makes a belief, attitude, or action bigoted. This is evident from the rejoinder that calling out bigotry is intolerant political correctness, even bigotry itself.

In Who's the Bigot?, the eminent legal scholar Linda C. McClain traces the rhetoric of bigotry and conscience across a range of debates relating to marriage and antidiscrimination law. Is "bigotry" simply the term society gives to repudiated beliefs that now are beyond the pale? She argues that the differing views people hold about bigotry reflect competing understandings of what it means to be "on the wrong side of history" and the ways present forms of discrimination resemble or differ from past forms. Furthermore, McClain shows that bigotry has both a backward- and forward-looking dimension. We not only learn the meaning of bigotry by looking to the past, but we also use examples of bigotry, on which there is now consensus, as the basis for making new judgments about what does or does not constitute bigotry and coming to new understandings of both injustice and justice.

By examining charges of bigotry and defenses based on conscience and religious belief in these debates, Who's the Bigot? makes a novel and timely contribution to our understanding of the relationship between religious liberty and discrimination in American life.
Advance praise:
"Through historical excavation and close readings of primary texts, Linda McClain examines the meaning and use of bigotry over time. By situating us in the thick of past conflicts over equality, McClain shows that views we now repudiate as bigoted were once within the realm of reasonable debate. Her book should be a warning for proponents of equality law today: Labeling one's opponents as bigots may obscure, rather than illuminate, connections between past and present struggles. Instead, by unearthing the similarities in justifications for inequality over time, McClain leaves us better able to appreciate the relationship between struggles for racial equality and struggles for LGBT equality." -- Douglas NeJaime
"At a time when public discourse is so charged, and the label "bigot" carries enormous emotional and psychological weight, Linda McClain helpfully unpacks the legal provenance of this fraught term. Drawing on a diverse range of contexts - from interracial marriage to the present debate over conscience exemptions - McClain considers what it means, as a matter of law and culture, to characterize someone (and their actions) as bigoted. This is required reading for anyone who wants to understand our polarized society and how we got here." -- Melissa Murray
More information is available here.

-- Karen Tani