Netroots Nation: Speaker/Trainer Profile

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Aaron Belkin

Take Back the Court

Aaron Belkin is a scholar, author and activist who has written and edited more than thirty scholarly articles, chapters and books. Since 1999, Belkin has served as founding director of the Palm Center, which the Advocate named as one of the most effective LGBTQ rights organizations in the nation. He designed and implemented much of the public education campaign that eroded popular support for military anti-gay discrimination, and Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley said of Belkin that, "Probably no single person deserves more credit for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’" When the military lifted its transgender ban in 2016, a senior Defense Department official said during a White House Ceremony that the Palm Center had been one of the two organizations most responsible for helping the Pentagon formulate inclusive policy for transgender troops. In 2018, Belkin founded Take Back the Court, which informs public opinion about the urgency of court expansion as a necessary step for restoring democracy. When Belkin started Take Back the Court, expansion had been taboo for 81 years—since 1937—and 0 candidates, 0 organizations, and 0 thought leaders endorsed the strategy. Fast-forwarding to today, 12 presidential candidates said they were “open” to expansion; 17 major progressive groups and prominent leaders such as Eric Holder have endorsed expansion; and moderate Senators such as Dick Durbin have said that the Court may need to be “restructured” if it continues to operate in a partisan manner. And, Court watchers on the left and the right have said that the Court’s restraint on DACA, reproductive justice, gun safety, and LGBTQ rights this term is at least partially attributable to pressure the Chief Justice feels from threats to enlarge the Court. Belkin serves as professor of political science at San Francisco State University. He earned his B.A. in international relations at Brown University in 1988 and his Ph.D in political science at the University of California, Berkeley in 1998.