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13 Dukeminier Awards: Best Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law Review [i] (2012-2013)

handle is hein.journals/dukemini13 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Urban Bias, Rural Sexual Minorities,
and the Courts

Luke A. Boso


Urban bias shapes social perceptions about sexual minorities. Predominant cultural
narratives geographically situate sexual minorities in urban gay communities, dictate
the contours of how to be a modern gay person, and urge sexual minorities to come
out and assimilate into gay communities and culture. This Article contests the urban
presumption commonly applied to all sexual minorities and focuses specifically on how
it affects rural sexual minorities, who remain largely invisible in the public discourse
about sexuality and equality.

This Article makes two important contributions. First, by exposing urban bias, it
contributes to a broader discussion about how law and society construct gay identity in
exclusionary ways across race and class, and it expands that discussion to attend to place.
The cultural prerogative to come out and into a gay community disregards social- and
class-based circumstances that can necessitate alternative strategies for belonging, and
it subordinates aspects of identity centered around families, religion, and place-based
communities of origin. Urban bias erases the most marginalized sexual minorities'
experiences from public discourse and places the burden on individuals to make positive
change for themselves.

Second, this Article draws attention to the legal dilemmas faced by a largely invisible
population. Judges play a key role in perpetuating urban bias by internalizing stereotypes
about gay people and gay identity and by explicitly approving the belief that sexual
minorities do not belong in small towns. Acknowledging the existence of rural sexual
minorities, understanding that various factors may render uprooting to an urban gay
community undesirable or impossible, and appreciating that rurality brings distinct
social experiences and legal needs are first steps in combatting discrimination against
these vulnerable people. Rather than invoking characteristics common to rural life to
make rural communities more hostile to residents who are sexual minorities, courts
should account for those same characteristics in rural sexual minorities' claims to
legal protections and access to justice. This Article offers suggestions for how judges
should take rural sexual minorities into account to maximize the latter's ability to live
comfortably in their homes.


Luke A. Boso is the Richard Taylor Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA School of
Law's Williams Institute.

60 UCLA L. REV. 562 (2013)

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