Outline and Boxes on a Blue Blackground

Family, Gender, and Sexuality

Some of the most profound questions of justice and equality involve the ways in which the private lives of individuals intersect with modern notions of gender, sexuality, and family. Scholars and advocates grapple with historical and ongoing discrimination against families along numerous dimensions, including race, income, and ability. Debates rage in legislatures and the courts about laws regarding issues such as child removal from parental care, reproductive rights, intimate partner violence, the economic rights of unmarried partners, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault. 

As societal norms evolve, how does the law respond to changing definitions of the family, protect the rights of children and parents, and ensure equal treatment under law for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of all races, ethnicities, and income levels?

Columbia Law School pioneered the study of gender and sexuality law in the 1970s, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 became the Law School’s first female full-time tenured professor and introduced the first-of-its-kind Sex Discrimination seminar. Today, students can take a wide variety of courses covering the cultural, political, and historical contexts of LGBTQ+ rights, queer theory, and sexual rights claims in domestic and international contexts. Similarly, Columbia Law has a strong tradition of teaching students about critical areas of family law and offers significant doctrinal, clinical, and other experiential opportunities.  

Why Columbia?

Study with professors who've been on the frontlines of impact litigation efforts, legislative work, and community advocacy projects.

Attend programs sponsored by the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, a respected think tank that develops innovative approaches to issues facing identity-based social movements and frequently produces amicus briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court and other jurisdictions in precedent-setting cases.

Participate in the Family Defense Clinic and advocate for families facing efforts by the government to intervene in parents’ and children’s rights to live together.

Learn about the work of scholars and advocates addressing the profound impact of race and income—and other axes of discrimination—on the regulation of children and families

Edit the student-run Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, which publishes works rooted in feminist inquiry.


Related Faculty

Carol Sanger

Carol Sanger

  • Barbara Aronstein Black Professor Emerita of Law

Related Centers and Programs

Center for Gender and Sexuality Law

Columbia Law School established the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law as an incubator for bold new approaches to complex issues facing gender and sexual justice movements. The center is home to research projects and initiatives focused on gender, sexuality, reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and gender identity and expression across law, policy, and professional practice. Students can supplement coursework with lectures, panel discussions, conferences, and guest speaker series on contemporary issues.


Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies

The Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies examines how social structures and related identity categories, such as gender, race, and class, interact to create social inequality. Its interdisciplinary and innovative research projects and initiatives unite a diverse group of academics and advocates interested in developing effective solutions to institutional inequality.


Studio for Law and Culture

The Studio for Law and Culture at Columbia University (SLC) is an intellectual home for the study, research, and scholarship on the intersection of law and culture. In addition to hosting fellowships, events, and workshops, SLC supports projects that explore dual interpretations of the law—as both a strict institutional doctrine and as a regime for ordering social life, constructing cultural meaning, and shaping group and individual identities. 


Related Experiential Learning Opportunities

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