Important Supreme Court Decisions in Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History

Read about Supreme Court cases that have dealt the gay-rights movement both setbacks and breakthroughs

by Beth Rowen
The US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court

Related Links

One, Inc. v. Olesen (1958)

The U.S. Post Office and the FBI deemed One: The Homosexual Magazine, a lesbian, gay, and bisexual publication, obscene, and as such could not be delivered via U.S. mail. The publishers of the magazine sued, and lost both the first case and the appeal. The Supreme Court accepted the case and reversed it, marking the first time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of homosexuals.

Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)

The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that consenting adults do not have a constitutional right to engage in homosexual acts in private, upholding a Georgia law. The majority said the "right of privacy" under the Due Process Clause does not give homosexuals the right to engage in sodomy. The "right to privacy" protects intimate marital and familial relations, but the Court said it does not cover gay sodomy because "no connection between family, marriage, or procreation on the one hand and homosexual activity on the other has been demonstrated." This decision, considered a serious blow to the gay-rights movement, was overturned in 2003's Lawrence v. Texas decision.

Romer v. Evans (1996)

In a 6–3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down Colorado's Amendment 2, which denied gays and lesbians protections against discrimination, calling them "special rights." According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, "We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These protections . . . constitute ordinary civil life in a free society."

Boy Scouts of America v Dale (2000)

In another setback to the gay-rights movement, the Court ruled 5–4, that the Boy Scouts of America have a constitutional right to ban gays because the organization's opposition to homosexuality as part of its "expressive message."

Lawrence v. Texas (2003)

The Supreme Court, 6–3, overruled a Texas sodomy law and voted 5–4 to overturn 1986's Bowers v. Hardwick decision. "The state cannot demean their [gays'] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime," wrote Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion. In his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Scalia said the court has "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda."

United States v. Windsor (2013)

The Supreme Court ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. In a 5 to 4 vote, the court ruled that DOMA violated the rights of gays and lesbians. The court also ruled that the law interferes with the states' rights to define marriage. It was the first case ever on the issue of gay marriage for the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. voted against striking it down as did Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. However, conservative-leaning Justice Anthony M. Kennedy voted with his liberal colleagues to overturn DOMA.

Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013)

The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage opponents in California did not have standing to appeal the lower court ruling that overturned the state's ban, known as Proposition 8. The ruling will remove legal battles for same-sex couples wishing to marry in California. However, the ruling did not directly affect other states.

Main Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month page.


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
Since 1990, 29 new nations have been established, most of which emerged as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!