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Law 903 Seminar: The Regulation of the Modern Family


The American family appears to be undergoing a period of substantial change. A number of states are now recognizing same-sex marriages; others are acknowledging more than two legal parents per child; common law is changing to accommodate the rising number of cohabiting couples; and courts are questioning the constitutionality of bans against polygamous marriages. This seminar will contextualize these changes by looking to the evolution of the family unit as told by the legal rules that regulate it. Rather than remain strictly within the discrete realm of family law, this seminar will consider how a number of different areas of the law – including immigration law, criminal law, property law, trusts and estates, tax law, and employment law – regulate, and in the process define, what constitutes a family. Readings will encompass court opinions, briefs, and statutes, as well as excerpts from scholarly articles in disciplines including law, sociology, and history. The seminar will require active engagement in class and a final paper exploring a topic addressed either in class discussions or in the readings. 


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