Symposium To Discuss Religious Liberty, Family Law, Bias

U.S. Supreme Court

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January 12, 2021

As its inaugural event, the Family Law Center at the University of Virginia School of Law will host an online symposium examining the current U.S. Supreme Court case Fulton v. City of Philadelphia.

Fulton, Faith, Families and Foster Care” will be held online Jan. 22 starting at 9 a.m. 

In the case, argued in November, Catholic Social Services is challenging the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to refer foster children to them because the religious organization won’t certify same-sex couples as foster parents.

Fulton exposes fundamental conflicts between the states’ authority to prohibit discrimination, the right of religious groups to participate in public life and our collective obligation to promote child welfare,” said Professor Naomi Cahn, the center’s director.

Professor Gregg Strauss, co-director of the center, added, “As the case illustrates, our public and private duty to help needy children has become the latest battleground in the fight between the liberty of religious citizens to participate in public life and the state’s obligation to prohibit discrimination.”

Conference co-organizers Cahn, Strauss and Professor Micah Schwartzman ’05 will bring together a multidisciplinary group of scholars with varying perspectives, many of whom have filed amicus briefs in Fulton.



9-9:15 a.m.


  • Risa Goluboff, Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law

9:15-10:45 a.m.

Panel 1 | What Are the Roles of Government and Private Citizens in Foster Care and Adoption?

  • Elizabeth D. Katz ’09, Associate Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
  • Linda C. McClain, Robert Kent Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
  • Catherine J. Ross, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor, George Washington University Law School
  • Robert W. Tuttle, David R. and Sherry Kirschner Berz Research Professor of Law and Religion, George Washington University Law School
  • Commentary: Serena Mayeri, Professor of Law and History, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
  • Moderator: Micah Schwartzman ’05, Hardy Cross Dillard Professor of Law; Director, Karsh Center for Law and Democracy; University of Virginia School of Law

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Panel 2 | How Do Religious Rights for Adults Affect the Rights of Foster Children and Parents?

  • Stephanie Barclay, Associate Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School
  • James Dwyer, Arthur B. Hanson Professor of Law, William & Mary Law School
  • Catherine E. Smith, Professor, Chauncey G. Wilson Memorial Research Chair, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Tanya Monique Washington, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law
  • Commentary: Elizabeth Bartholet, Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law; Faculty Director, Child Advocacy Program; Harvard Law School; Elizabeth W. Sepper, Professor of Law, University of Texas at Austin School of Law
  • Moderator: Gregg Strauss, Professor of Law; Co-Director, Family Law Center, University of Virginia School of Law

1:15-2:30 p.m.

Panel 3 | What Can Social Science Tell Us About How Discrimination Law in Foster Care and Adoption Affects Child Welfare?

  • Charlotte J. Patterson, Professor of Psychology and Women, Gender & Sexuality, University of Virginia
  • Nelson Tebbe, Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, Cornell Law School; Netta Barak-Corren, Associate Professor, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law
  • Bianca D.M. Wilson, Rabbi Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law
  • Commentary: Craig Konnoth, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School; Michael Higdon, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law
  • Moderator: Robert Emery, Professor of Psychology; Director, Center for Children Families and the Law; University of Virginia

2:45-4 p.m.

Panel 4 | What Is or Should Be the Future of Foster Care, Religion and LGBT Law?

  • Clare Huntington, Joseph M. McLaughlin Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
  • Robin Fretwell Wilson, Director, Institute of Government and Public Affairs; Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Chair in Law; Co-Director, Program in Family Law and Policy; Co-Director, Epstein Health Law and Policy Program; Professor, Department of Pathology, College of Medicine; University of Illinois
  • Jordan Woods, Associate Professor of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law
  • Commentary: Courtney G. Joslin, Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law, University of California at Davis School of Law; Jessica Dixon Weaver ’95, Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Fellow, Gerald J. Ford Research Fellow, Associate Professor of Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
  • Moderator: Naomi R. Cahn, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Law; Nancy L. Buc ’69 Research Professor in Democracy and Equity; Director, Family Law Center; University of Virginia School of Law

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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