Holning Lau

Willie Person Mangum Distinguished Professor of Law

Areas of Expertise

  • Civil Rights and Discrimination
  • Comparative and Foreign Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Family Law
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Gender and the Law
  • Human Rights Law
  • International Human Rights
  • Race and the Law
  • Sexuality and the Law


Holning Lau is the Willie Person Mangum Distinguished Professor of Law. He is an internationally recognized expert on international and comparative approaches to equality rights, especially in the contexts of sexuality, gender, and family life. His writing has appeared in leading law reviews, interdisciplinary journals, books, and mass media outlets. He teaches International Law of Human Rights, Comparative Constitutional Law, and Family Law. He co-directs UNC’s Human Rights Law Program with Professor Deborah Weissman. He also chairs the UNC SOGIESC Human Rights Initiative, in which he works with students on pro bono projects concerning LGBTQI rights. He has been a recipient of Carolina Law’s Robert G. Byrd Award for Excellence and Creativity in Teaching (2022), and he has twice been named Professor of the Year by UNC Law’s Pro Bono Program (2011, 2022). From 2016 to 2018, he was Associate Dean for Faculty Development.

Professor Lau has served as an independent consultant on LGBTQI rights to organizations such as the Asian Development Ban, Danish Institute for Human Rights, and International Commission of Jurists. From 2013 to 2015, Professor Lau was president of the ACLU of North Carolina’s Board of Directors. He came to UNC in 2009 from Hofstra University, where he was an associate professor and co-directed Hofstra’s LGBT Rights Fellowship Program. Prior to that, he worked at UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy. He has also served twice as a visiting fellow at the University of Hong Kong and as an adjunct professor at Duke University School of Law. Professor Lau received his J.D. from the University of Chicago, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review and a staff member of the Chicago Journal of International Law. At the University of Chicago, he was named a Stonewall Scholar for excellence in his work related to LGBT rights and was awarded the Ignacio Martín-Baró Human Rights Paper Prize.


  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania
  • J.D., University of Chicago

Selected Publications

Nonmarriage and Choice in South Africa and the United States (with S. Kim), 99 WASH. U. L. REV. 1983 (2022).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress

Gender Recognition as a Human Right, in CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS: RECOGNITION, NOVELTY, RHETORIC (A. von Arnauld, K. von der Decken & M. Susi, eds., 2020).
SSRN | JC571 .C36 2020

American Equal Protection and Global Convergence (with H. Li), 86 FORDHAM L. REV. 1251 (2017).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress

Marriage Equality and Family Diversity: Comparative Perspectives from the United States and South Africa, 85 FORDHAM L. REV. 2615 (2017).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress

Comparative Perspectives on Strategic Remedial Delays, 91 TUL. L. REV. 259 (2016).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress

The Language of Westernization in Legal Commentary, 61 AM. J. COMP. L. 507 (2013).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein

Grounding Conversations on Sexuality and Asian Law, 44 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 773 (2011).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress | Document Link

Identity Scripts & Democratic Deliberation, 94 MINN. L. REV. 897 (2010).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | SSRN | Hein | BEPress | Document Link

Human Rights and Globalization: Putting the Race to the Top in Perspective, 102 NW. U. L. REV. 2021 (2008).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

Transcending the Individualist Paradigm in Sexual Orientation Antidiscrimination Law, 94 CAL. L. REV. 1271 (2006), reprinted in 6 THE DUKEMINIER AWARDS 69 (2007).
Westlaw | Lexis/Nexis | Hein | BEPress

SSRN Author Page

In the Media