Research reports

Research Reports

The Center for Gender and Sexuality Law

Over the years, the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law has supported research projects from Visiting Faculty and scholars at the Law School, including Urvashi Vaid and Dean Spade.

Two core projects hosted and launched by the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law in recent years include the Engaging Tradition Project, and the report, "Our Fair City."  Details about both of these projects, and links to reports, fact sheets, and papers issued as part of these projects may be found below.

Engaging Tradition Project

About the Engaging Tradition Project

With the support of a $1.5 million grant from the Arcus Foundation, the Engaging Tradition Project studies how the ideas of tradition are deployed both to undermine and support gender and sexuality-based social justice projects. A critical goal of the Engaging Tradition Project is to better enable advocates working for sexual, gender, racial, and economic justice to resist tradition-based objections—whether derived from religion, custom, history, gender role stereotyping, forms of family, or identity and nationalism. 

The Engaging Tradition Project convened a workshop of Scholars in the Spring of 2012 to speak on topics of gender, sexuality, racial justice, and reproductive rights when viewed with a critical lens towards engaging tradition and history. 

Staff and Consultants

Director: Urvashi Vaid

Urvashi Vaid brings a distinguished record of service in legal, LGBT, and philanthropic organizations. Vaid is a former staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project and the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, whose think tank she also directed. An experienced executive with the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation, Vaid served as deputy director of Ford’s Governance and Civil Society Unit, and as executive director of Arcus. Vaid is the author of Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation, a groundbreaking analysis of the political strategies and frames of the LGBT movement, and co-editor with John D’Emilio and William Turner of an anthology of histories of key LGBT policy wins, titled Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights.

Visiting Professor (2012-2014): Dean Spade

Dean Spade is an Academic Fellow in the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School 2012 to 2014. He is an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law.  Prior to joining the faculty of Seattle University, Dean was a Williams Institute Law Teaching Fellow at UCLA Law School and Harvard Law School, teaching classes related to sexual orientation and gender identity law and law and social movements.

In 2002, Dean founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a nonprofit law collective that provides free legal services to transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people who are low-income and/or people of color. SRLP also engages in litigation, policy reform, and public education on issues affecting these communities and operates on a collective governance model, prioritizing the governance and leadership of trans, intersex, and gender variant people of color. While working at SRLP, Dean taught classes focusing on sexual orientation, gender identity and law at Columbia and Harvard Law Schools.

Dean was recently awarded a Dukeminier Award for his 2008 article “Documenting Gender” and the 2009-2010 Haywood Burns chair at CUNY Law School, and was selected to give the 2009-2010 James A. Thomas Lecture at Yale. His 2011 book, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

Research Consultant: Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is an independent writer and activist based in upstate New York who is affiliated with the New York-based think-tank Demos, and the Brooks World Poverty Institute at Manchester University in the U.K. From 1999 to 2008, he was the director of the Ford Foundation's Governance and Civil Society Program in New York, having previously worked for the World Bank, Oxfam-GB, Save the Children-UK and other NGOs in Washington D.C., London, Colombia, Zambia, Malawi, and India. His writings have helped to shape a more critical appreciation of the global role of philanthropy and civil society, and to break down barriers between researchers and activists across the world. For more information, visit

Report and Documents:

Our Fair City: A Comprehensive Blueprint for Gender and Sexual Justice in New York City

About the Project: Our Fair City

In June 2014, the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law published "Our Fair City: A Comprehensive Blueprint for Gender and Sexual Justice in New York City." The report addresses several ways through which New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio could reduce widespread gender and sexual discrimination against millions of New Yorkers with a series of targeted policy changes—many of them revenue-neutral.

"Our Fair City: A Comprehensive Blueprint for Gender and Sexual Justice in New York City" documents everyday incidents of gender and sexual injustice experienced by already vulnerable New Yorkers and can serve as a blueprint to guide the de Blasio administration as it develops a policy agenda on these issues.

The report identifies myriad practices and policies that result in discrimination across issues ranging from education, criminal justice, and housing to immigration, labor, and sexual violence.

For example, despite widespread bullying and sexual harassment in New York City public schools, the Department of Education has only one official responsible for ensuring compliance with the federal law that prohibits sex and gender-based harassment in public education. And, there are only 253 shelter beds reserved for tens of thousands of LGBTQ homeless and runaway youth who routinely resort to trading sex for a place to sleep. 

Written in close collaboration with dozens of advocacy and direct-service organizations that work to address the day-to-day manifestations of sexual and gender injustice in New York, the report offers the de Blasio administration:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the many ways city policies and practices perpetuate gender and sexual discrimination, as well as recommendations for immediate and near-term actions to eliminate such injustices;
  • 10 key facts about gender and sexual injustice that have largely been ignored by previous administrations; and

  • 10 revenue-neutral “Fast and Free” ways to confront discrimination immediately by executive order.

Columbia Law School Professor and Center Director Katherine Franke said the center will issue periodic assessments documenting progress made on the recommendations put forth in Our Fair City and will identify additional opportunities for improvement.

“We’ve been encouraged so far by this administration’s commitment to progressive policy reform and expect that Mayor de Blasio will embrace policies that assure justice and fairness for all New Yorkers," said Franke. "This report provides the administration a blueprint for achieving gender and sexual justice in New York City and charts the path for NYC to become a model for dismantling gender and sexuality-based barriers to opportunity."

Report and Documents