Central to David Richards's elegant and provocative Identity and the Case for Gay Rights
is the injustice of what he calls "moral slavery." This concept describes the cultural construction of stereotypes that dehumanize the affected group and are rationalized in the context of historical structural injustices. The burdens moral slavery places on individual's identity formation are similar to those associated with discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and religion, and are similarly unconstitutional and inhumane. Richards finds the analogy to religious toleration most apt and useful as a model for those struggling for recognition of gay rights. One of the strongest points here is that such an approach neatly sidesteps the biological reductionism that shadows women's rights and race-based rights, and that could attach to gay rights if the "gay gene" theory becomes the dominant theme in mobilization around the issue. By aligning gay rights most closely with religious liberty and other First Amendment values such as free speech and association, Richards is able to preserve both the ideas of identity and choice: like spirituality, sexual orientation is part of who you are and
a matter of individual conscience.
This is a beautifully written and powerfully argued piece of scholarship from a highly regarded and prolific constitutional philosopher. Though a slim volume, the book contains historical analysis of case studies that is sophisticated and challenging, as well as a prescription for a model that finds "homosexual" to be a suspect classification. It's intelligent reading not only for those interested in gay rights but also those who follow the civil rights fortunes of African Americans, women, and religious minorities. --Julia Riches
From Library Journal
As a legal scholar, Richards (law, New York Univ.) demands that the public understand gay rights as a key element of basic human rights. He further asserts that discrimination based on gender, religion, or race is similar to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Richards examines the link between gay rights and the movements for blacks' civil rights, feminism, and religious freedom. Ultimately, the author believes, the best criterion for legal acceptance of gay rights will be based upon those principles issued in the argument for religious toleration under the parameters of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A thought-provoking study of the relationship of gay rights to the Constitution and human-rights endeavors. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Libs., South Bend, IN
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