Linda C. McClain
Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar
Interests: family law and policy; children and the law; gender and law; feminist legal theory; civil society; political philosophy; reproductive issues; law and religion; religious liberty; equality; welfare law; comparative family law
Linda C. McClain is known for her work in family law, gender and law, and feminist legal theory. Her scholarship addresses the respective roles of families, other institutions of civil society and of government in fostering citizens’ capacities for democratic and personal self-government. She has engaged with prominent communitarian, civic republican and feminist critiques of liberal legal and political theory and offered a reconstructive liberal feminist approach to such matters as privacy, family and marriage, reproductive issues and welfare law. Her work also addresses sex equality as a legal and constitutional commitment and public value, the responsibility of government to promote equality, and societal tensions over equality and its relationship to other values. She was lead organizer of the recent BU Law conference, “Evaluating Claims about ‘the End of Men’: Legal and Other Perspectives.” Since Fall 2010, she has been a Faculty Fellow at the BU School of Theology, where she has pursued issues of pluralism, religion in the public square, and the role of religion in conflict and peacemaking. She contributes to the blog, Balkinization, and frequently speaks to the press on issues concerning family law and marriage.
Her new book, Ordered Liberty: Rights, Responsibilities, and Virtues (Harvard University Press, 2013) (co-authored with James E. Fleming), develops and defends a civic and constitutional liberalism that takes responsibilities and virtues – as well as rights – seriously. It offers a conception of “ordered liberty” that appreciates the value of diversity in our morally pluralistic constitutional democracy and answers various charges that the U.S. constitutional system, in recent years, exalts individual rights over responsibilities, virtues, and the common good. The book uses the battle over same-sex marriage as a primary illustration and argues that a conception of “ordered liberty” supports marriage equality. Other examples include clashes between First Amendment freedoms (of association and religion) and antidiscrimination law, the education of children, and reproductive freedom.
In her first book, The Place of Families: Fostering Capacity, Equality, and Responsibility (Harvard University Press, 2006), Professor McClain offered a liberal and feminist perspective on the relationship between family life and the polity and on a number of contested issues of family law and policy, including governmental promotion of marriage, the denial of marriage to same-sex couples, welfare policy and constitutional rights to reproductive freedom. The Place of Families has been described as “the most careful and comprehensive defense to date of the progressive liberal feminist position on the civic role of families” and “a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in the future of American families and family law.”
The point of departure of Professor McClain’s new, interdisciplinary volume, What Is Parenthood?: Contemporary Debates about the Family (NYU Press, 2013) (with Daniel Cere) is extraordinary changes in patterns of family life – and family law – that have dramatically altered the boundaries of parenthood and opened up numerous questions about debates. How should society define, regulate, and support parenthood? The book brings legal scholars into conversation with scholars from anthropology, globalization and immigration studies, medicine, psychology, religious ethics, and sociology to consider several questions about parenthood, including questions about institutions, rights, attachment, gender equality and difference, and transnational parenting.
Professor McClain’s book, Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women’s Equal Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2009; paperback, 2012) (co-edited with Joanna Grossman), examines the problem of the continuing gap between formal commitments to gender equality and the equal citizenship of women and men and the persistence of gender inequality, and it develops strategies for closing that gap. The book has been called “essential reading for those concerned with gender equality and citizenship across myriad disciplines” and “an outstanding collection” that “both illuminates and complicates a range of gender justice problems in intimate and public arenas within and across national boundaries.”
Professor McClain is chair-elect of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Family and Juvenile Law. She is a member of the Council on Contemporary Families. She is also on the advisory board of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. A former faculty fellow at the Harvard University Center for Ethics and the Professions, Professor McClain has been a visiting professor of law at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Virginia. Before joining the faculty of Boston University School of Law in Fall 2007, Professor McClain was the Rivkin Radler Distinguished Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she was also co-director of the Institute for the Study of Gender, Law, and Policy. Prior to entering the legal academy, she practiced litigation at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.