The Limits of Defining Identity in Religion-Gender Conflicts: A Response to Patrick Parkinson

8 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2023 Last revised: 23 Jan 2024

See all articles by Laura Portuondo

Laura Portuondo

University of Houston Law Center

Claudia E. Haupt

Northeastern University - School of Law; Yale University - Yale Information Society Project

Date Written: January 26, 2023

Abstract

In his article “Gender Identity Discrimination and Freedom of Religion,” Patrick Parkinson raises the important question of how the government should reconcile conflicts between the rights of religious people and the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming people. By focusing on whether gender identity is best defined as a medical issue or a belief system, however, Parkinson does little to answer it. Whether gender identity is a medical issue may be relevant to determining the sincerity of an individual’s faith-based objection to complying with an antidiscrimination law. It has no bearing, however, on the strength of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals’ countervailing interest in being protected from discrimination. Defining gender identity as a belief system does no more to undermine this interest. This should be apparent to defenders of religious exemptions, who assert that belief systems offer a basis for extending, rather than contracting, legal protections. Characterizing an individual’s gender identity as either a medical issue or a belief system thus does not show why that individual’s interests should give way to the interests of religious objectors through an exemption. To reach this conclusion, one must instead turn to other values, such as those implicit—though inadequately defended—in Parkinson’s article.

Note:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Keywords: religion, LGBTQ+, transgender, discrimination, conflicts of rights, sex, gender, exemptions, immutability

Suggested Citation

Portuondo, Laura and Haupt, Claudia E., The Limits of Defining Identity in Religion-Gender Conflicts: A Response to Patrick Parkinson (January 26, 2023). Journal of Law and Religion, 2023, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 454, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4338842

Laura Portuondo (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

Houston, TX
United States

Claudia E. Haupt

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Yale University - Yale Information Society Project ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

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