Pierceson, Jason 1972-

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Pierceson, Jason 1972-


Born August 6, 1972; partner's name Dylan. Education: Knox College, graduated 1994; Brandeis University, Ph.D., 2003. Hobbies and other interests: Golf, movies, cooking.


Home—Springfield, IL. Office—University of Illinois at Springfield, Legal Studies Department, One University Plaza, MS-PAC340, Springfield, IL 62703. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. St. Norbert College, DePere, WI, instructor, 2003-05; University of Illinois at Springfield, assistant professor of political and legal studies, 2005—.


Courts, Liberalism, and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2005.


Writer and educator Jason Pierceson is an assistant professor of political and legal studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He holds an undergraduate degree in history from Knox College and a Ph.D. in politics from Brandeis University. A biographer on the University of Illinois at Springfield Legal Studies Department Web site noted that Pierceson conducts research in areas related to public law, where politics, public policy, and law intersect; in legal and political theory; and in the concepts, issues, and controversies surrounding legal and political approaches to sexuality. Among the topics of his classes are Law and Inequality, Law and Society, and American Political Thought.

Pierceson's Courts, Liberalism, and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada is a "timely book that provides an excellent account of the major legal developments in gay rights in the United States," commented Donald W. Crowley, writing in the Law & Politics Book Review. Pierceson provides careful assessment of a number of U.S. Supreme Court cases that pertain to gay rights. However, the greater portion of his analysis focuses on state cases involving such topics as sodomy laws, gay marriage, sexuality, and more. The "importance of state courts has been an untold story and is one of the most convincing points in Pierceson's consideration of the issues," Crowley remarked. His book "builds an enormously important research foundation" in state law on sexuality-related issues, noted David Rayside in the Political Science Quarterly. For example, he discusses the nationwide controversy over the topic of gay marriage, and examines how state courts in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Hawaii have dealt positively with the issue. "Pierceson does a nice job of situating these developments in the broader literature of judicial politics," Crowley stated, while cautioning that recent constitutional amendments restricting gay marriage passed by several states means that the issue is far from resolved.

Pierceson further endorses wariness over accepting too many negative rights claims at the expense of positive rights. As an example, he cites abolishment of sodomy laws as a means of advancing negative rights claims. He observes that, in general, American culture is more accepting of such negative rights claims. On the other hand, the positive right of gay marriage does not find such ready acceptance from policy makers or the public because it requires that the new and unfamiliar status conferred by gay marriage be recognized and accepted by the government and by society at large. In addition, reliance on privacy laws, especially those that define privacy in terms of the simple negative right to be left alone, do not provide enough solid justification for the legally binding right of same-sex couples to marry. Liberalism, on the other hand, affords a justification based on "human dignity and individual autonomy," Crowley stated.

Pierceson doesn't restrict his assessments solely to U.S. jurisdictions. "One of the great strengths of Pierceson's book is that he looks beyond the United States, and particularly to Canada," Rayside noted. In using at the Canadian approach to litigation of sexuality issues as an example, Pierceson suggests that genuine equality can be achieved through litigation and legislation.

For Pierceson, "the gay rights experience can serve as an example of how the courts can play an effective role in bringing about social change," Crowley observed. He sees political liberalism as a "public philosophy" that "provides a strong enough framework to protect the advance of gay rights," Crowley stated. In total, Pierceson's work is "sharply critical of judicial and political preparedness to sustain dehumanizing prejudice," but it is "also optimistic about the prospects of change in what many observers would see as bleak times," Rayside stated. Pierceson's "book raises important questions about the progress of gay rights and fills a useful role for those straining to keep up with legal developments in this evolving frontier of civil rights," Crowley stated.



Choice, April, 2006, J.B. Grossman, review of Courts, Liberalism, and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada, p. 1482.

Law and Politics Book Review, February, 2006, Donald W. Crowley, review of Courts, Liberalism, and Rights, p. 119.

Law and Social Inquiry, winter, 2006, "Law and Sexuality," p. 265.

Political Science Quarterly, summer, 2006, David Rayside, review of Courts, Liberalism, and Rights, p. 348.


Temple University Press Web site,http://www.temple.edu/ (March 27, 2008), faculty profile.

University of Illinois at Springfield Legal Studies Department Web site,http://www.uis.edu/legalstudies/ (March 27, 2008), faculty profile.