- (812) 855-1775
- Baier Hall 263
- Indiana University A.B.
- University of Michigan J.D.
- Recipient of IU Trustees Teaching Award, 2020, 2017
- Has litigated in federal and state courts at all levels, including briefs and oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court
- Former attorney with the global law firm Mayer Brown LLP
- Clerked for the Hon. Terence T. Evans, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- Magna cum laude graduate, University of Michigan Law School
Steve Sanders teaches Constitutional Law, Constitutional Litigation (the law of Section 1983 actions for constitutional torts), Conflict of Laws, Family Law, Sexuality/Gender Identity and the Law, and a seminar on constitutional interpretation. His scholarship focuses on questions arising out of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process, with a special focus on issues affecting LGBTQ persons and same-sex couples. His work has appeared in the Michigan Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, and Fordham Law Review, among others, and has been cited in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, federal district court opinions, and briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts.
Sanders has twice been recognized with an IU Trustees Teaching Award. He has been designated a Henry H.H. Remak Distinguished Scholar by IU's Institute for Advanced Study, and has been honored by vote of Maurer students as “Outstanding Interactive Professor.” He serves as the law school's Faculty Director of Judicial Clerkships and as faculty advisor to the Indiana Law Journal. He has taught as a visiting professor or lecturer at the University of Michigan and University of Chicago law schools.
Sanders began his career as an administrative staff member at IU Bloomington, serving as Assistant to the Chancellor and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts Sciences. He then earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan, magna cum laude, where he was an articles editor on the law review and received the Bates Memorial Scholarship, the law school's highest award to graduating seniors. He clerked for the Hon. Terence T. Evans of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sanders practiced for four years with the Supreme Court and appellate litigation group at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago, where he became the firm's most-junior attorney to present a U.S. Supreme Court argument in a paid-client matter.
In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Sanders has participated in groundbreaking litigation. On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, he co-authored an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which established nationwide marriage equality for gays and lesbians. A case he litigated in the Indiana Court of Appeals in 2013 led to the first published opinion by any court in the United States holding that a spouse's gender transition did not affect the validity of an existing marriage. And he authored a scholars' amicus brief in Varnum v. Brien (2008), the decision that made Iowa the second state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriages. He has represented the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and groups of scholars and scientists as amici curiae in the U.S. Supreme Court, two federal courts of appeals, and three state supreme courts. Most recently he represented a group of constitutional law professors in the Iowa Supreme Court in a case challenging Iowa's denial of Medicaid assistance to transgender people seeking gender-affirming surgeries.
Sanders also has been a leader in matters of academic freedom and university governance. He was a founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance. For the Association of American Law Schools, he organized a Presidential Program on the 100th anniversary of the AAUP's landmark declaration on academic freedom. As an attorney he has represented a high-ranking federal official in the investigation of information that was improperly disclosed from a tenure proceeding at another university.
Sanders's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and SCOTUSBlog, among many other journalistic outlets and professional blogs. He has appeared on MSNBC and public radio's “To the Point,” has been a legal analyst for Bloomberg Radio, and is frequently quoted by print and online news media about matters of constitutional law, LGBTQ rights, and the Supreme Court. For his investigative journalism on IU's most recent presidential search, he was honored in 2022 with the Courage Award from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
In The Media
- Appeared on "Indiana continues to struggle with attorney shortages," WFIU Noon Edition ( 12-01-2023 )
- Quoted in "Could the fight over an Indiana transgender student's access to a school bathroom make it to SCOTUS?," WFYI News ( 11-22-2023 )
- Wrote "Judges Have Long Been Deferential to Academe. That’s Changing.," Chronicle of Higher Education ( 11-06-2023 )
- Quoted in "Impact of Affirmative Action Supreme Court Ruling, According to Legal Scholar," WFHB News ( 10-13-2023 )
- Quoted in "Early Transgender Care Challenge Wins Falter at Appeals Courts," Bloomberg Law ( 08-24-2023 )
- Quoted in "IU law professor breaks down Trump’s Georgia indictments," WISH TV News ( 08-15-2023 )
- Mentioned in "What now for law school diversity? Big Ten deans, professors share thoughts after Supreme Court ruling," Minnesota Lawyer ( 07-12-2023 )
- Quoted in "Legal experts say affirmative action ruling reverses decades of precedent," WISH TV News ( 06-29-2023 )
- Quoted in "IU Law Prof: SCOTUS creates voting rights 'ripple effect'," WRBI Radio News ( 06-28-2023 )
- Quoted in "The professor is canceled. Now what?," Washington Post ( 06-21-2023 )
- Mentioned in "Indiana University Northwest celebrates Pride Month with events, activities," NWI.LIFE ( 06-09-2023 )
- Quoted in "Hoosier political, legal experts weigh in on what's next after Trump indictment," WTHR News ( 03-31-2023 )
- Quoted in "Experts: Guarding schools against litigation can produce unforeseen consequences," Pharos Tribine ( 03-25-2023 )
- Quoted in "Proposed Bill Would Make Protesting Outside A Person’s Home Illegal," WIBC News ( 02-08-2023 )
- Quoted in "Lawmakers discuss bill to criminalize protesting outside officials’ homes," WISH TV News ( 02-08-2023 )
- Quoted in "Judicial or legislative? COA continues to face gender-marker cases, asks justices to step in," The Indiana Lawyer ( 12-21-2022 )
- Quoted in "Biden Law Creates Path to Overturning Gay Marriage Ruling, Ministry Boasts," Newsweek ( 12-13-2022 )
- Quoted in "Respect for Marriage Act's impact on Indiana," WSBT News ( 12-08-2022 )
- Quoted in "The Senate, House voted to protect same-sex marriage. Here's what it means in Indiana," Indy Star ( 12-08-2022 )
- Quoted in "Court sides with conservative group on All Lives Matter street mural," Indiana Public Media ( 11-23-2022 )
- Quoted in "School districts fight and dodge Indiana’s $1-school-building giveaway law," Fox59 News ( 11-21-2022 )
- Quoted in "Supreme Court rulings to look out for this term," Indiana Daily Student ( 11-07-2022 )
- Quoted in "Supreme Court to hear Indiana case on public nursing homes," CBS4 News ( 10-10-2022 )
- Quoted in "The Supreme Court Is Blowing Up Law School, Too," Slate ( 10-02-2022 )
- Quoted in "A crucial precedent? New Mexico Trump loyalist barred from office over Jan. 6 insurrection," Salon ( 09-06-2022 )
- Quoted in "Narrow ruling against transgender girl sports ban law gives some families hope it'll be struck down," WRTV News ( 07-26-2022 )
- Quoted in "Questions remain after Indiana Senate GOP introduces abortion bill," WIBQ AM ( 07-21-2022 )
- Quoted in "Steve Sanders on Full Faith and Credit and the Respect for Marriage Act," Reason ( 07-20-2022 )
- Quoted in "Possible Impact of Roe V. Wade Overturn on Indiana," Fox 59 News ( 06-27-2022 )
- Quoted in "Indiana lawmakers to address abortion access during special session following Roe v. Wade," WSBT News ( 06-24-2022 )
- Quoted in "After a Fraught Semester, a University Wrestles With the Meaning of 'Shared Governance'," Chronicle of Higher Education ( 06-17-2022 )
- Quoted in "Abortion restrictions likely coming to Indiana if draft opinion is published," The Indiana Lawyer ( 05-25-2022 )
- Discussant on "Professor Steve Sanders," Supreme Myths ( 05-20-2022 )
- Quoted in "Roe v. Wade: How will the possible overturn affect you?," WPTA 21 News ( 05-06-2022 )
- Quoted in "Clues In Alito's Draft Suggest He's Not Reaching For Roberts," Law360 ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "Legal expert says shocking leak of SCOTUS draft opinion is far from final decision," WTHR News ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "VERIFY: What we know about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion," WTHR News ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "IU legal scholar says overturning Roe would be groundbreaking," Indiana Public Media ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "If Roe v. Wade is overturned, what will Indiana do?," WTHR News ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "Here is what overturning Roe v. Wade could mean for Hoosiers," WRTV News ( 05-03-2022 )
- Quoted in "Indianapolis airport travelers react to lifting of mask mandate," WTHR News ( 04-19-2022 )
- Quoted in "IU faculty representatives vote to uphold graduate students' right to strike," Indiana Public Media ( 04-13-2022 )
- Quoted in "Are anti-LGBTQ laws legal? Alabama trans laws spark debate over Constitutional rights," USA Today ( 04-09-2022 )
- Quoted in "'I think she will be one to watch' | Legal experts weigh in on how Ketanji Brown Jackson may vote if confirmed," WTHR ( 03-26-2022 )
- Quoted in "What's next if Indiana lawmakers override veto banning transgender girls from K-12 sports?," WTHR ( 03-23-2022 )
- Quoted in "Legal battle brewing over trans athlete bill," The Indiana Lawyer ( 03-02-2022 )
- Discussant on "Gay Rights at Issue in Case Over Wedding Websites," Bloomberg Law Podcast ( 02-28-2022 )
- Quoted in "Local college commits itself to diversity amongst uncertainty of affirmative action," WTHI ( 01-29-2022 )
- Quoted in "'Appointing someone to the Supreme Court can have profound effects' What the Supreme Court Justice nomination process looks like," WTHI ( 01-28-2022 )
- Quoted in "Indiana Supreme Court: HSE must release more facts about coach suspension," WTHR 13 Investigates ( 01-13-2022 )
- Quoted in "'They feel targeted': Indy-area teachers, school officials harassed and intimidated 10/22/21," The Indianapolis Star ( 10-22-2021 )
- Quoted in "Why states like Texas won't be able to stop Biden's vaccine mandates," Fortune ( 10-20-2021 )
- Quoted in "Alito defends SCOTUS at Notre Dame," Indiana Lawyer ( 10-13-2021 )
- Quoted in "Vaccine mandates still contested issue inside law offices, courts as president prepares requirements," The Indiana Lawyer ( 09-29-2021 )
- Quoted in "Indiana University's COVID vaccination mandate now includes an ethical exemption," The Herald Times ( 07-28-2021 )
- Wrote an article titled "Relationship check-in: LGBTQ people and the Supreme Court," American Constitution Society Expert Forum ( 06-30-2021 )
- Interviewed in "Religious rights win out in clash with gay rights," Bloomberg ( 06-19-2021 )
- Quoted in "SCOTUS watchers anticipate Coney Barrett's conservative influence on summer cases," Indiana Public Media ( 06-11-2021 )
- Featured in "Meriwether v. Shawnee State: Is all classroom speech free speech?," The Academic Freedom Podcast ( 06-08-2021 )
- Quoted in "IU law professor says teacher's appeal in same-sex marriage case could be tough," WISH-TV ( 05-09-2021 )
- Featured in "Prof. Steve Sanders discusses a SCOTUS case between TX and CA over LGBT rights and religious liberty," Bloomberg Law ( 05-03-2021 )
- Quoted in "Chesterton flag flap reminds former teacher of poster complaint two decades ago," Chicago Tribune ( 04-16-2021 )
- Wrote a blog post titled "Pronouns, 'academic freedom,' and conservative judicial activism," American Constitution Society Expert Forum ( 04-12-2021 )
- Mentioned in "As Indiana's statewide mask mandate ends, you still have to mask up in many places," The Indianapolis Star ( 04-06-2021 )
- Quoted in "As statewide mask mandate ends, businesses can still require masks," The Indianapolis Star ( 04-05-2021 )
- Quoted in "Day 1: IU law professor weighs in on Trump impeachment trial," WTHR ( 02-09-2021 )
- Secrecy and the University: A Cautionary Case Study, in THE ETHICAL UNIVERSITY: TRANSFORMING HIGHER EDUCATION (Alison Renteln and Wanda Teays, eds.) (Rowman & Littlefield 2022).
- Book review: Susan Gluck Mezey, Transgender Rights: From Obama to Trump, 41 JOURNAL OF WOMEN, POLITICS & POLICY No. 3 (2020).
- Dignity and Social Meaning: Obergefell, Windsor, and Lawrence as Constitutional Dialogue, 87 FORDLAM L. REV. 2069 (2019).
- The Cultural Politics of Dan Quayle and Mike Pence, 52 IND. L. REV. 69 (2019).
- Religious Arguments, Religious Purposes, and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Cases, 17 FIRST AM. L. REV. 237 (2018).
- Making It Up: Lessons for Equal Protection Doctrine from the Use and Abuse of Hypothesized Purposes in the Marriage Equality Litigation, 68 HASTINGS L.J. 657 (2017).
- Pavan v. Smith: Equality for Gays and Lesbians in Being Married, Not Just in Getting Married, AMER. CONST. SOC. S. CT. REV. 2016-2017
- Race, Restructurings, and Equal Protection Doctrine Through the Lens of Schuette v. BAMN, 81 BROOK. L. REV. 1393 (2016).
- RFRAs and Reasonableness, 91 IND. L.J. 243 (2016).
- Book Review: Somin, Ilya, Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, 1 J. CIVIC LITERACY (July 2014).
- Mini-DOMAs As Political Process Failures: The Case for Heightened Scrutiny of State Anti-Gay Marriage Amendments, 109 NW. U.L. REV. ONLINE 12 (2014).
- India, Nepal, and Pakistan: A Unique South Asian Constitutional Discourse on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (with Sean Dickson), in SOCIAL DIFFERENCE AND CONSTITUTIONALISM IN PAN-ASIA (Susan Williams, ed.) (Cambridge University Press 2014).
- Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause Still "Irrelevant" to Same-Sex Marriage?: Toward a Reconsideration of the Conventional Wisdom, 89 IND. L.J. 95 (2014).
- Affirmative Action and Academic Freedom: Why the Supreme Court Should Continue Deferring to Faculty Judgments About the Value of Educational Diversity, 1 IND. J.L. SOC. EQ. Art. 2 (2013).
- The Constitutional Right to (Keep Your) Same-Sex Marriage, 110 MICH. L.REV. 1421 (2012).
- Interstate Recognition of Parent-Child Relationships: The Limits of the State Interests Paradigm and the Role of Due Process, 2011 U. CHI. LEGAL F. 233 (2011).
Areas of Expertise
- Academic freedom
- Civil rights
- Constitutional law
- Family law
- LGBT issues
- University governance
- US Supreme Court