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Annual Childress Lecture Addresses LGBTQ Rights

On October 27, 2023, Saint Louis University hosted its annual Richard J. Childress Memorial Lecture. This year’s lecture was organized by Professor Samuel Jordan and Ryan Brooks (3L), the Childress Managing Editor for the SLU Law Journal. The lecture is named in honor of former Dean Richard J. Childress (1969-1976), to commemorate Dean Childress and his contributions to the law school.

The lecture, titled Progressive Constitutionalism and its Libertarian Discontents: The Case of LGBTQ Rights, explored the ways in which libertarian political morality and constitutionalism creates a double-edged sword for progressives. The topic was chosen because of its duality. On the one hand, libertarian principles have helped advance some progressive objectives inside and outside of the courts, including several related to LGBTQ rights. On the other hand, abiding by those principles as a matter of constitutional law has served to jeopardize a slew of broader progressive objectives.

Professor Carlos Ball at Scott Hall

Professor Carlos Ball gives the keynote address at the 2023 Childress Lecture at Scott Hall

This year’s keynote speaker, Professor Carlos Ball, Distinguished Professor of Law and Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar at Rutgers Law School, is a nationally recognized expert on LGBTQ rights law and constitutional law. He is the author or editor of nine books. His books include Principles Matter: The Constitution, Progressives, and the Trump Era (Oxford University Press, 2021), The Queering of Corporate America (Beacon Press, 2019) and The First Amendment and LGBT Equality: A Contentious History (Harvard University Press, 2017).

Dean William Johnson began the Childress Lecture by reaffirming SLU LAW’s dedication to an inclusive environment where rigorous academic discussion can take place. Then, Professor Carlos Ball began the Keynote Address. He dove into the libertarian ethos and the reality of addressing LGBTQ rights. Professor Ball stated, “There are clear and irreconcilable differences in the libertarian ethos and a progressive distributive one.” He then went on to say,  “The libertarian ethos is deeply skeptical of government, almost never viewing it as a source of solutions to economic and social problems, while almost always blaming government for causing or exacerbating those problems.”   

Following the Keynote Address, there were three panels to conclude the lecture.

The first panel, LGBTQ+ Rights and Constitutional Theory, included Craig Konnoth, Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law; Linda McClain, Robert Kent Professor of Law and Co-Director of BU Law Program in Reproductive Justice at Boston University School of Law; and Tobias Barrington Wolff, Jefferson B. Fordham Professor of Law and Deputy Dean for Equity & Inclusion at the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law.