Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), is a United States Supreme Court case dealing with civil rights and state laws. The Court gave its ruling on May 20, 1996 against an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to recognize gay and lesbian citizens as a Protected class.
Supreme Court ruling
The case was argued on October 10, 1995. On May 20, 1996, the court ruled 6-3 that Colorado's Amendment 2 was unconstitutional, though on different reasoning than the Colorado courts. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, and was joined by John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.
Rejecting the state's argument that Amendment 2 merely blocked gay people from receiving "special rights", Kennedy wrote:
Kennedy argued that protection offered by antidiscrimination laws was not a "special right" because they protected fundamental rights already enjoyed by all other citizens. Though antidiscrimination laws "enumerated" certain groups that they protected, this merely served to put others on notice (i.e., the enumeration was merely declaratory).
Instead of applying "strict scrutiny" to Amendment 2 (as Colorado Supreme Court had required) Kennedy wrote that it did not even meet the much lower requirement of having a rational relationship to a legitimate government purpose:
Kennedy did not go into depth in rejecting the claims put forward in support of the law (protecting the rights of landlords to evict gay tenants if they found homosexuality morally offensive, etc.) because he held that the law was so unique as to "confound this normal process of judicial review" and "defies...conventional inquiry." This conclusion was supported by his assertion that "It is not within our constitutional tradition to enact laws of this sort." Finding that "laws of the kind now before us raise the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected," the Court implied that the passage of Amendment 2 was born of a "bare...desire to harm a politically unpopular group".
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent, which was joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia wrote:
Scalia argued that Amendment 2 did not deny homosexuals access to the political process but merely made it more difficult to enact laws that they favored. He noted that the majority's result stood in flat contradiction to the court's earlier decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), in which it had ruled that laws outlawing sodomy are not unconstitutional. That was based on the fact that Bowers had rejected a rational-basis challenge to sodomy laws on the grounds that traditional moral disapproval furnished such a rational basis. Scalia noted:
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