UMass Law Associate Professor Jeremiah Ho receives top prize for LGBTQ legal scholarship

Ho is one of four recipients of the Dukeminier Award from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School

Law professor standing in front of bookcases

In “Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop,” published in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, UMass Law Associate Professor Jeremiah Ho explores the divisive case of a Colorado same-sex couple who was turned away from ordering a wedding cake by a baker whose religious beliefs did not support their marriage.

The paper has received a top prize in the field of LGBTQ legal scholarship as one of four recipients of the Dukeminier Award from the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School. The article was published in Volume 20 of the Dukeminier Awards Journal, which is read by lawyers, advocates, and academics in the field. The piece was originally published in 2020 in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism.

The Dukeminier Awards were established to acknowledge and distribute the best of legal scholarship concerning various aspects of sexual orientation and gender identity law.

“I’m extremely grateful and delighted that the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law has recognized my work, “Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop,” on the Supreme Court’s 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, showing how that case provides insight on interpreting the progress of LGBTQ+ legal advances in the U.S. today,” said Ho.

“The award is a great honor as scholarship has been immensely important to my life in the law,” he added. “My first published law review piece as a second-year student in law school was on same-sex marriage at a time in which the progress for LGBTQ+ rights had not yet turned as positively. That piece had been a seminal part of my coming out experience during law school as well. Since then, I’ve continued to write in the area, especially after entering the legal academy, hoping to give more visibility to the diversity and pluralism within LGTBQ+ lived experiences. This recognition of my scholarship from the Williams Institute is quite meaningful because it acknowledges writing that has given me much purpose in life on these various levels.”

Ho’s article aims to explain why it was acceptable to the Supreme Court that a married Colorado same-sex couple could be turned away from ordering a wedding cake by a baker whose religious beliefs did not support gay marriage.

“When the Colorado public accommodations law protected against sexual orientation discrimination and since the Supreme Court has recognized same-sex marriages, this decision seemed dissonant,” Ho said. “Shouldn’t this couple have been able to get their cake and eat it too? But as I argue in the article, this couple’s “queer” attributes did not align with the more assimilated portrayals of gay couples in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage cases. This couple’s queerness threatened the status quo. As a result, the couple was then indirectly denied their recourse under the law. What this likely proves for LGBTQ+ rights advances is that progress is conditioned on conforming into how the status quo perceives LGBTQ+ identities. If you don’t conform, you don’t get your cake.”

Masterpiece Cakeshop article refined Ho’s direction in his LGBTQ+ legal scholarship

Ho said he began focusing more acutely on specific areas of LGBTQ+ rights advancements when he began to write “Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop” in 2019. “I’ve always been fascinated by how assimilation by marginalized groups is an available way of gaining access into the establishment but at a great—often monumental—cost. My prior published works had started to focus on this aspect of LGBTQ+ rights progress. But this work on the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision helped me crystallize my observations in more theoretical and methodical terms.”

Last year, Ho published another piece that builds on the theoretical examination about LGBTQ+ assimilation that was published last fall in the American University Journal of Law, Social Policy, and Gender. “Queering Bostock” followed the Supreme Court’s Title VII employment decision, Bostock v. Clayton County, that gave protection to sexual orientation workplace discrimination. As part of his current sabbatical, Ho is currently working on another article that broadens the connection between his theories in both pieces.

“In effect, whether I knew it or not in 2019, “Queer Sacrifice in Masterpiece Cakeshop” has given me a lot of insight not only for observing recent LGBTQ+ legal advancements but how diversity is being defined presently in the U.S. for race, gender, and sexuality,” he said.

Professor at MA State House surrounded by law students at Walk to the Hill
UMass Law Associate Professor Jeremiah Ho (center) with students at the 2020 Walk to the Hill at the MA State House. Ho has been named Professor of the Year a record of six times by the UMass Law Student Bar Association.

Highly-regarded UMass Law faculty member

Professor Ho joined the UMass Law faculty in 2012. In 2020, he received the Manning Prize for Teaching Excellence, awarded annually to one faculty member at the entire university, for his exemplary dedication to students and the campus community. He has been named Professor of the Year a record of six times by the UMass Law Student Bar Association.

As the UMass Law Review's research and scholarship advisor, Ho works closely with students on their research and scholarly writing. An article he co-wrote with the student editor-in-chief was published in the Harvard Journal on Legislation.

Ho has published in leading law journals at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, the University of California-Davis, Marquette, Utah, and Kentucky, as well as the Journal of Legal Education.

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