Minority Groups, Co-Sponsored by Section on Africa: Minority Conservatives and Their Impact on Legal Theory
The American Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted in response to historical imperatives and remain embedded in particular historical moments. How to interpret the text of the Constitution and Bill of Rights continues to be a major source of conflict among scholars, lawyers and judges, with those who favor an originalist approach pitted against those who see the Constitution as a living document, responding to contemporary realities. Reflecting the tremendous societal change since the Constitution’s ratification, identity issues of race, gender and sexuality often trigger these discussions , with those identified as “the other”, namely people of color, women, sexual minorities, as objects of these interpretive differences. Recently several conservative scholars who happen to members of these identity groups have emerged who insist on a strict formalist approach to constitutional interpretation. Their approach to constitutional interpretation places them outside the mainstream of their identity communities, where reliance on a living constitution has provided the context for societal change, such as the eradication of racial and gender discrimination. This panel will raise the following questions: Does, and/or should, one’s identity influence one’s interpretation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Is and should one’s philosophical approach to constitutional interpretation be guided by one’s identity? Is it possible to balance one’s identity group membership with a strict constructionist approach to constitutional interpretation and still achieve meaningful and even transformation social equality under law?
Business Meeting at Program Conclusion.