Assistant professor Anthony Kreis has always been interested in how law and history intersect, specifically relating to political movements and long-term social change. That interest naturally lent itself to Kreis finding a niche in civil rights and constitutional law, where he’s been able to make an impact not only with his scholarship but also with public facing work.
Joining the Georgia State Law faculty in 2020 teaching constitutional law and employment discrimination, Kreis is excited to bring a positive energy to his teaching in a way that encourages his students, because he knows the value a good educator can have.
“I was lucky because I was at a law school that valued teaching, mentorships and building relationships,” said Kreis. “If I didn’t have professors who saw something in me and then took the time and energy to build that and encourage me to do what my natural gifts would lend themselves to, I wouldn’t be here.”
Beyond constitutional law and civil rights, Kreis’s academic interests spans into the areas of anti-discrimination, legislation, and American political development.
Kreis is also active in law reform efforts. He has testified before the Georgia legislature several times, he wrote the Illinois law passed in 2017 that bans gay and transgender panic defenses in murder trials and has co-authored several amicus briefs before the Supreme Court of the United States, including Bostock v. Clayton County.
“I think public facing work is very important because we’re out there to teach our students how to be advocates,” he said. “If there’s a controversy or issue in an area where my expertise has some barring on it and I can bring some substance to that debate, I’m going to do that.”
Kreis first got a glimpse of this importance when states began to debate same-sex marriage. He joined a group of law professors to do statutory work, draft language, write letters and analyze the proposed text. That led to a moment in 2011, when the New York Senate finally passed the bill that had been failing for years to legalize same-sex marriage.
“The law has real consequences,” Kreis said. “We always know that, but there was no doubt in my mind in that moment that something I had contributed to the state of the law in this country, immediately impacted how people saw themselves in some way, or at least they saw a change in how their own country saw them.”
Kreis says his priority in the classroom is to make sure all different voices across the ideological spectrum are heard. He wants his students to talk about the history of how we got to where we are and grapple with the hard truths of our past. It’s important for students to see how the law has evolved, how that evolution has helped people or not help people and to not lose sight that our constitutional system is for the people.
“We should always rethink things,” Kreis said. “I’ve always told students the most dangerous phrase we could ever say is ‘we’ve just always done it that way.’ That’s not a justification, that’s an excuse. We can’t use that as a catch-all to just brush things under the rug. We need to think about the reasons the system exists and the consequences for the system as it stands.”
Written by Mara Thompson