PSCI 3301 Gender, Sexuality and U.S. Law

Instructor Contact:

Corey M. Barwick


About the Course:

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage across the fifty states. Also in its 2015 term, and in a lesser known case, the Court clarified the requirements for filing a disparate treatment lawsuit under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Unlike many other legal topics, gender and sexuality law are relatively new areas of litigation. And in this course, we are going to examine case law past and present as well as speculate on how ongoing or hypothetical (yet entirely plausible) controversies might be decided by the courts in the future.

The primary objective of this course is to get you to start thinking about familiar issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, sex and sexual orientation discrimination from a purely legal perspective. Throughout this course, I would like to see all of you develop a keen legal mind: developing and defending arguments you believe in, tearing other (hopefully less logical) ones down, but also stepping into your opponents’ shoes and building up their case to be as strong as it can be. As this course progresses, my hope is that you will come to realize that not all positions on these issues can easily be categorized as having a liberal or conservative bent, and that sometimes the law might dictate outcomes you yourself disagree with.

The online course will explore the same topics that are covered in the in-person version of the course with one major difference: discussions will be online instead of in the classroom. I will lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides, and these will be posted on the course website. I have broken the audio lectures up into fifteen to twenty-five minute mini-lectures. While I will cover most of the assigned reading in these lectures, to do well in this course requires going back through the cases multiple times to both contribute to the online discussions in a meaningful manner and to complete the short papers and exams.

This course more closely resembles a law course than a theoretically or historically driven course. As such, our focus will not be on theories of feminism or the history of women and sexual minorities before 1970s. That said, the textbook for this course has been written to omit most of the procedural aspects of law that are more pertinent to lawyers than undergraduates. Perhaps some of you are deeply interested in law. Perhaps some of you simply need to fulfill the human diversity requirement for your major. For whatever reason you are taking this course, I would like you to keep in mind two things: First, this course will be difficult. I have always had high expectations of my students and just because this course is online does not mean those expectations will change. Second, I will try to lecture as clearly as possible and have well-defined expectations for each graded assignment. But in the event that some portion of my lectures are unclear or you do not understand how to succeed in this course, I will do my absolute best to make sure that if you want to succeed, you will know how to do so. This includes being available via email, having Skype office hours, and I am more than willing to meet on campus to discuss the material further. I look forward to working with you all and hopefully by the end of the course, you will come to realize that you have learned so much more about gender and sexuality law than you thought was possible!


By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Identify key court court cases relevant to gender and sexual orientation law and summarize the major holdings of these cases.
  • Choose relevant case law that would govern different situations and circumstances and compare and contrast the facts of cases already decided with hypothetical or ongoing cases.
  • Explain why either the plaintiff or defendant should win a hypothetical or ongoing case based on precedent and case facts and then defend that judgment against plausible alternative interpretations of case law.

Required Texts:

  1. Author: Katharine T. Bartlett, Deborah L. Rhode, Joanna L. Grossman, and Samantha L. Buchalter
    Title: Gender Law and Policy
    Publisher: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business
    ISBN #: 978-1454841289
    Date/Edition: 2014; 2 edition
    Cost: $107.96
  2. Author: Martha C. Nussbaum
    Title: From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
    ISBN #: 978-0195305319
    Date/Edition: 2010; 1 edition
    Cost: $16.71


  • 50% – Short Papers × 5
  • 15% – Participation
  • 35% – Final Exam

Grading Scale:

  • A = 93.00-100
  • A- = 90.00-92.99
  • B+ = 87.00-89.99
  • B = 83.00-86.99
  • B- = 80.00-82.99
  • C+ = 77.00-79.99
  • C = 73.00-76.99
  • C- = 70.00-72.99
  • D+ = 67.00-69.99
  • D = 63.00-66.99
  • D- = 60.00-62.99
  • F = 0-59.99

Now that you’ve selected your favorite Continuing Education courses, email or print the information, including class number, to more easily search Buff Portal and enroll. Still have questions? Contact an advisor.


Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado