Dale Carpenter

Headshot of Dale Carpenter, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Professor of Law

Full-time faculty



Dale Carpenter is the Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, and Professor of Law at SMU Dedman School of Law. He previously served as the Charles J. and Inez Wright Murray Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at SMU.  He teaches Constitutional Law I, Constitutional Law II, the First Amendment, and LGBT Rights and the Law.

Prior to joining SMU, Professor Carpenter taught for 16 years at the University of Minnesota, where he served as a Distinguished University Teaching Professor and the Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law. He won multiple teaching awards. He is also an editor of Constitutional Commentary.

The Texas native received his B.A. degree in history, magna cum laude, from Yale College and received his J.D., with honors, from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the University of Chicago Law Review. After serving as a law clerk for Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones, he practiced at law firms in Houston and San Francisco.

As the author of numerous articles and an award-winning book —FLAGRANT CONDUCT:  THE STORY OF LAWRENCE V. TEXAS (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012), about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that invalidated America’s sodomy laws — he is often asked by the media to comment on constitutional law, the First Amendment, and LGBT Rights and the Law. Since 2005, he has been an active blogger on the popular legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, which is hosted by Reason.com.

Area of expertise

  • Constitutional Law
  • First Amendment Law
  • LGBT Rights and the Law


B.A., magna cum laude, Yale College
J.D., University of Chicago Law School


Constitutional Law I
Constitutional Law II
First Amendment and Freedom of Speech
LGBT Rights & the Law




The Dead End of Animus Doctrine, 74 Alabama Law Review 585 (2023)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Born in Dissent: Free Speech and Gay Rights, 72 SMU Law Review 375 (2019)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Windsor Products: Equal Protection from Animus, 2013 Supreme Court Review 183 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Traditionalist Case for Gay Marriage, 50 South Texas Law Review 93 (2008-2009)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Straight Acting, 9 Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 803 (2008)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Institutional Review Boards, Regulatory Incentives, and Some Modest Proposals for Reform, 101 Northwestern University Law Review 687 (2007)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Unanimously Wrong, 2006 Cato Supreme Court Review 217 (2006)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Bad Arguments Against Gay Marriage, 7 Florida Coastal Law Review 181 (2005)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Value of Institutions and the Values of Free Speech, 89 Minnesota Law Review 1407 (2005)
SMU Repository

Four Arguments Against the Federal Marriage Amendment that Even an Opponent of Gay Marriage Should Accept, 2 University of St. Thomas Law Journal 71 (2004)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Is Lawrence Libertarian?, 88 Minnesota Law Review 1140 (2004)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Antipaternalism Principle in the First Amendment, 37 Creighton Law Review 579 (2004)
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The Unknown Past of Lawrence v. Texas, 102 Michigan Law Review 1464 (2004)
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Judicial Supremacy and Its Discontents, 20 Constitutional Commentary 405 (2003)
SSRN | SMU Repository

A Conservative Defense of Romer v. Evans, 76 Indiana Law Journal 403 (2001)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Expressive Association and Anti-Discrimination Law After Dale: A Tripartite Approach, 85 Minnesota Law Review 1515 (2001)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Under Title VII, 37 South Texas Law Review 699 (1996)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Book chapters

Autonomy (of individuals and private associations), in OXFORD HANDBOOK OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION (Oxford University Press 2015)

The Unconservative Consequences of Conservative Opposition to Gay Marriage, in  WHAT'S THE HARM?: DOES LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE REALLY HARM INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, OR SOCIETY? (Lynn Wardle, ed., University Press of America 2008)

Four Arguments, in DEFENDING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE 161-182 (Mark Strasser, ed., Praeger Publishers 2006)

Lawrence Past, in THE FUTURE OF GAY RIGHTS IN AMERICA 107-150 (H.N. Hirsch, ed., Routledge 2005)

Bad Arguments for Gay Marriage, in I DO/I DON'T: QUEERS ON MARRIAGE (Greg Wharton, ed., Suspect Thoughts Press 2004)

Other publications

Review of  THE DEVIANT'S WAR: THE HOMOSEXUAL VS. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, by Eric Cervini, 31 Journal of the History of Sexuality (September 2022) (Book review)

LGBT Equality, Religious Liberty, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Texas Bar Journal (July 2020)
SMU Repository

Pride’s Progeny: Legal Ramifications of Same-Sex Marriage, 71 Bench and Bar of Minnesota 20 (Jan. 2014) (with Sonja Dunnwald Peterson, Nancy Zalusky Bergan and R. Mark Frey)

Justice Scalia’s Constitutional Case for Gay Marriage, 14 Engage: The Journal of the Federalist Society’s Practice Groups 14 (2013)

The Federal Marriage Amendment: Unnecessary, Anti-Federalist, and Undemocratic, The Cato Institute (June 1, 2006) (policy analysis)

A Discourse: Presidential Powers in Time of War, Perspectives: The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Law School 35-41 (Spring 2006) (exchange) (with Michael Paulsen and Heidi Kitrosser)

Is the Solomon Amendment Unconstitutional?, 3 Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases 143 (ABA, Nov. 28, 2005)

Analyzing Lawrence v. Texas, 19 Focus on Law Studies 2 (ABA, 2003)

Does the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law Violate the Fourteenth Amendment?, 6 Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases 341 (ABA, 2003)

Keeping Secrets, 86 Minnesota Law Review 1097 (2002)
SSRN | SMU Repository

The Limits of Gaylaw, 17 Constitutional Commentary 603 (2001) (reviewing William N. Eskridge, Gaylaw: Challenging the Apartheid of the Closet (Harvard University Press, 1999)) (review essay)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Bumping the Status Quo: Actual Relief for Actual Victims Under Title VII, 58 University of Chicago Law Review 703 (1991) (comment)
SSRN | SMU Repository