A Survey of Gay Rights Culminating in Lawrence v. Texas

Phong Duong, A Survey of Gay Rights Culminating in Lawrence v. Texas, 39 Gonz. L. Rev. 539 (2004).

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Homosexuality is determined by birth, just as are skin color and gender. Similar to the rights of African-Americans and women in the past, rights of gay men and lesbians are finally being recognized after suffering a history of government discrimination. Lawrence v. Texas has the potential to do for gay men and lesbians what Brown v. Board of Education did for African-Americans and Frontiero v. Richardson did for women, that is, to make gay men and lesbians equal to heterosexuals in the eyes of the law and, through influence, the eyes of society.

Prior to Lawrence, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, gay men and lesbians’ ascension to equality was halted and even pushed back. Bowers dealt a devastating blow to the gay rights movement by allowing states to continue criminalizing intimate sexual relations between homosexuals, thereby denying them a “sensitive, key relationship to human existence.” The decision went beyond merely sexual conduct and essentially solidified the immoral stigma associated with homosexuals throughout America’s history and openly endorsed widespread discrimination against gay men and lesbians. The repercussions of Bowers echoed in the ears of gay men and lesbians throughout America in every facet of life for seventeen long years. That changed on June 26, 2003, when Lawrence v. Texas overruled Bowers. This decision may become the most powerful force used by gay men and lesbians on their path to equality.

This note traces the condemnation of and discrimination against homosexuals from our nation’s early history through the United States Supreme Court’s privacy decisions, and finally culminates in Lawrence. The Supreme Court decisions focused on here are those analyzing gay rights under the right to privacy portion of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. This note does not focus on claims brought under the Equal Protection Clause because it was the claims brought under the Due Process Clause that established the right to privacy, ultimately giving rise to the seminal decisions in Bowers and Lawrence…. Read More

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