Patterns of Panic
Saint Louis University Law Journal (forthcoming 2024) (Childress Lecture Symposium)
15 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2023 Last revised: 24 Feb 2024
Date Written: November 14, 2023
Disruptions in the constitutional order can agitate social anxiety, particularly when an out-group on the rise challenges an in-group's political dominance and position in a constitutional regime. This has been acutely true concerning civil rights expansion, where civil rights opponents have turned to libertarian theories of law when their cultural currency is on the ropes. This essay highlights some of the similarities between libertarian ideological impulses at critical junctures of American constitutional development during Reconstruction and in resistance to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans in the twenty-first century. In these two crucial moments of constitutional development, a similar pattern of panic emerged whereby opponents to a more progressive constitutional order worked to steer civil rights jurisprudence toward a deregulatory, market-centered theory of rights, favoring live-and-let-live approaches to remedying social inequality over a state-backed right to dignity in the public square.
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