Law 165 - Using Empirical Research to Inform LGBT Law and Policy

Robert Bradley Sears

Robert Bradley Sears

Associate Dean of Public Interest Law
David Sanders Distinguished Scholar of Law & Policy, The Williams Institute
B.A. Yale, 1992
J.D. Harvard, 1995
UCLA Faculty Since 2000
Course Description:

This course will explore the relevance of empirical research to LGBT law and policy issues. The course will feature the scholars and research of the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.  Themes explored throughout the course will include: doctrinal and other reasons why research has become more central to LGBT legal advancements in the past decade; the different types of public policy research in terms of methodologies; the limitations of current data and research on LGBT issues; the difficulties in translating social science research into evidence in the courtroom; the impact that the dominant LGBT rights frame of equality has on social science research; the challenges in conducting objective research that informs the objectives of two or more competing movements; and the effective presentation of social science research before legislators, judges, juries, media, and other audiences.  By the end of the course, students will have an introduction to LGBT law and related public policy research and will have explored the practice-based issues faced by lawyers, social science researchers, and decision-makers when working in this area.

The initial session will provide an overview of research methodologies (quantitative, qualitative, surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.) and points of intervention in the law making (litigation, legislation, administrative, programs and benefits, corporate policies, etc.), using several substantive examples.   The next four sessions with explore the intersection of empirical research and law and policy with the following topics:  marriage, anti-discrimination, transgender rights, HIV/AIDS. For each of these sessions, students will learn about a specific area of LGBT law and policy and then discuss the social science research that has informed that area.  For the final session, students will apply what they have learned by working in groups of 2-3 students to argue before a mock LGBT state equality board -- in a state with no LGBT-supportive laws -- for what LGBT-related laws, policies, programs, or benefits should be pursued by the group.