The Top 5 LGBT Court Cases
The two high-profile opinions pending release this month from the U.S. Supreme Court could end up being as historic as the Loving v. Virginia decision, which struck down laws against marriage for interracial couples in 1967. They could be as dramatic as Roe v. Wade, which struck down most restrictions against abortion in 1973. And, they’re already getting as much attention now, if not more, than pending decisions on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.
If the Supreme Court makes definitive rulings in U.S. v. Windsor (regarding the Defense of Marriage Act) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (regarding California’s Proposition 8), the opinions will certainly warrant inclusion on any Top Ten LGBT Cases list, maybe even among the Top Five.
Here are the cases that would make most LGBT legal activists’ Top Five LGBT Supreme Court opinions list today:
Lawrence v. Texas
Vote: 6 to 3
Ruling: A Texas law making it a crime for two adults of the same sex to have consensual sexual relations in private violates the Due Process Clause.
Impact: The ruling not only struck down the Texas law but those in eight other states. It also put a stop to the use of various other entities -employers, the military, family courts, and others-from using the existence of the laws to justify various other forms of discrimination against LGBT people. Many believe it is the decision that most paved the way for the success of much later litigation, including on marriage, to assert equal protection rights for LGBT people.
Bowers v. Hardwick
Vote: 5 to 4
Ruling: A Georgia law making it a crime for two adults of the same sex to have consensual sexual relations in private was constitutionally permissible.
Impact: Politically and legally, Hardwick lashed out against an LGBT community that was growing dramatically, in part due to legal gains and in part due to a need to address the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It was cited by hundreds of later decisions in courts across the nation to justify all various restrictions on the rights of LGBT people.
Romer v. Evans