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University Course – The Causes and Consequences of LGBTQ Public Policies

The Causes and Consequences of LGBTQ Public Policies (UNIV 3320/5320) will introduce students to critical questions about public policies for LGBTQ populations, including: legal access to same-sex marriage; nondiscrimination policies in employment, housing, and public accommodation, including whether they are trans-inclusive; so-called ‘bathroom bills’; religious freedom restoration laws (also called ‘conscience’ acts); and others. The course will investigate the causes, correlates, and consequences of these policies using the lenses of economics, law, sociology, political science, and public health and medicine. Students will critically analyze leading research articles and mainstream media discussions of LGBTQ-related public policies; hear from guest speaker experts; perform an immersive data-intensive research project; and visit Tennessee state legislators to understand views on a range of LGBTQ-related issues. The course advances multiple parts of the university-wide strategic plan, including: immersive research and learning experiences; enhancing the undergraduate residential experience; fostering interdisciplinary perspectives; and focusing on health and health care solutions.


Kitt Carpenter, Professor of Economics. Carpenter is a health and labor economist who studies the effects of public policies on health and family outcomes. He directs the TIPs-supported Vanderbilt LGBT Policy Lab and with interdisciplinary teams is studying the effects of legal access to same-sex marriage in the United States and Europe. His research has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Carpenter is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Editor at the Journal of Health Economics .

Course Overview

Key features:

  • Explore the ways public policies impact LGBT people and how such policies are created using a unified social science framework.
  • Discuss bathroom bills, marriage laws and many other public policies relevant to sexual and gender minority populations.
  • Interrogate the reasons for laws and policies that impact the LGBT population, including the arguments, motivations, and ideologies of proponents and opponents.
  • Interact with faculty guest speakers from the College of Arts and Science, Peabody College, Law School and VUMC – leading scholars on LGBT public policies.
  • Visit the Tennessee State Capitol to discuss LGBT public policies with elected officials and advocates.
  • Apply your knowledge, with faculty guidance, to produce a policy paper and presentation that explores a specific real-world LGBT public policy in depth.

Degree requirements fulfilled:

  • College of Arts and Science: Counts toward the Perspectives requirement of AXLE.
  • Blair School of Music: Counts as an academic elective.
  • Divinity School: Counts as a free elective for both the MTS and MDiv degree programs.
  • Law School: Counts toward the six non-Law elective credits.
  • Peabody College: Counts toward the social science requirement of the undergraduate major programs, or as general elective credit.
  • Peabody College: Counts as elective credit for the following M.Ed. programs: Learning and Design, Community Development and Action, Child Studies, Leadership and Organizational Performance, Higher Education Administration and English Language Learners.