Thoughts on Transgender Issues

   The treatment of transgender people is one of the most active fronts in our never-ending culture wars. Any nuance gets lost on both sides of the debate. At the risk of being caught in the cross-fire, this post attempts to formulate a sensible framework for understanding these issues.  My starting point is the affirmation of two principles. First, people should be able to express their gender identity as they wish, not in conformity with other people's ideas. That principle is rooted in the fundamental right to express oneself linked to the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech.  Second, gender dysphoria, the strong sense of belonging to a gender other than the biological gender into which one was born, is real. The causes of gender dysphoria are not well understood, but seems to have a physiological basis, at least in some  cases . From this emerges the principle that people experiencing gender dysphoria should be given “reasonable accommodation,” a term that comes fro

Dobbs and Brown v. Board of Education: A Comparison

  As we mark the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I note that the supporters of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization , the decision revoking the constitutional right to an abortion, have sought to draw celebratory parallels between that decision and Brown v. Board of Education. This was the case that recognized the principle that “separate but equal” treatment of Blacks and Whites in segregated schools was incompatible with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Like Brown , Dobbs overturned a foundational precedent that had been in force for decades, and according to anti-abortion proponents, established an important right – the right to fetal life -- denied by the discredited precedent. The Dobbs opinion itself referenced Brown a number of times, and Mitch McConnell said of the Dobbs decision: “The Court has corrected a terrible legal and moral error, like when Brown v. Board overruled Plessy v. Ferguson.”   But the differences between Brown and Do

Electing Republicans Won't Help the Economy

  By Robert Katz  If the latest polls are to be trusted, the American electorate might be ready to give over control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. The main logic for this transfer seems to be that although the GOP is replete with election deniers, insurrectionists, and anti-abortion fanatics, what matters is the economy, and specifically rising prices. The belief is that Republicans can do a better job at containing inflation and improving on the economic news than can Democrats. According to a recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist  Poll , Republicans have a 39%-26% advantage over Democrats when people are asked who would be better at handling the economy. That includes a 40%-17% margin with independents.  Is that confidence in Republican’s handling of the economy justified?   The causes of the current inflation are complex and manifold, poor fodder for sound bites. We do know inflation is a worldwide phenomenon. It is partly the result of the pandemic, of people shiftin

Abortion and Democracy

  By Robert Katz   The issue of abortion is hard from a legal standpoint, because most questions in a democratic society are supposed to be resolved democratically, through elected representatives, with only a few fundamental rights cordoned off from legislative interference.  The clauses in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments forbidding government deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law has been interpreted to safeguard certain rights so fundamental to human freedom and dignity that no amount of due process can justify their deprivation. Determining whether abortion rights fit into that narrow category is the crux of the hard issue.   One of the most striking things about Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center , the recent opinion purporting to end the federal constitutional abortion right, is that Justice Alito doesn’t breathe a word about the imposition that an abortion ban would have on women’s liberty. He doesn’t have to, because he would only ac