The Volokh Conspiracy

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Law & Contemporary Problems Symposium on "Sex in Law" Publishes Disputed Article

Some student editors had resigned from the journal due to the inclusion of an "anti-trans" article by philosopher Kathleen Stock.


The journal Law & Contemporary Problems has published its first issue of 2022, an interdisciplinary symposium on "Sex in Law." Among the contributions to the symposium is an article by philosopher Kathleen Stock, "The Importance of Referring to Human Sex in Language." In this article, Stock argues that "abandoning orthodox biology-based understandings of 'woman,' 'man,' 'girl' and 'boy' deprives language-users with immensely valuable tools to analyse and explain the material and social world. Meanwhile, any supposed gains are partial and uncertain." The inclusion of this article prompted some student editors of the journal to resign, as covered in this post.

The full symposium presents articles from a range of normative and disciplinary perspectives, addressing contemporary questions about how questions of sex, gender, and sexuality are and should be addressed in the law. In addition to Stock, contributors include Edward Schiappa, Joshua D. Safer, Anne B. Goldstein, Richard Chused, Anthony Michael Kreis, Wickliffe Shreve, Joanna Harper, June Carbone, and Madeleine Pape.

As a result of the controversy, no student editors are listed on the journal's masthead for this issue. Instead is the following statement:

As a general matter, student staff members of the journal Law & Contemporary Problems (L&CP) do not select articles for the symposium issues in its volumes. As L&CP is organized and operates, issue proposals are approved by the journal's faculty board and article selections are made by the special editors. The student role is typically to produce the issues once articles have been finalized by the authors and special editors. In the case of this issue, 85-1: Sex in Law, no articles have been read, edited, or reviewed by any L&CP student staff editors or executive board members acting in their official capacities as journal members. Over the summer of 2021, eight 3L students resigned from the journal and the remainder of the 3L membership voted not to have student members contribute to this symposium in their official capacities; these decisions were in response to the inclusion of Kathleen Stock's essay and the faculty board's rejection of the student executive board's request for use of a style guide on uniform language for the issue which the student executive board's membership considered necessary to avoid harm to the transgender community.

The issue's foreword, by Professors Doriane Coleman and Kimberly Krawiec (who were the editors of this issue), also addresses the controversy. They write:

We want to close with an expression of gratitude to the students who helped edit this volume after a number of editors and journal members resigned from the board or refused to work on it, for reasons explained in their statement on the masthead page. This includes the research assistants of individual authors, who did work that would normally have been completed by the student board, as well as Duke Law students who volunteered their time without pay or institutional credit to produce the rest. Among the latter, we especially want to recognize Meredith Criner who acted as de facto editor-in-chief even as she also did a lot of the below-the-line work normally reserved for junior members of the student board.