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, and he chairs the UNC SOGIESC Human Rights Initiative. In 2022, he was awarded Carolina Law’s Robert G. Byrd Award for Excellence and Creativity in Teaching, and he was named Professor of the Year by UNC Law’s Pro Bono Program.

From 2019 to 2020, Lau also taught Comparative Constitutional Law at Duke University. From 2018 to 2019, he served as an independent consultant to the International Commission of Jurists and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, supporting their work on sexual orientation and gender identity issues in Myanmar. From 2016 to 2018, he served as Associate Dean for Faculty Development at UNC Law. From 2013 to 2015, Lau was president of the ACLU of North Carolina’s Board of Directors. He came to UNC in 2009, after serving as an associate professor at Hofstra University, where he also 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 served twice as a visiting fellow at the University of Hong Kong. He has also worked for the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor and the firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. Lau received his J.D. from the University of Chicago, where he was an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review and served on the staff 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. He completed his B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude.


  • 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

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