Rainbow Rights: The Role of Lawyers and Courts in the Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Movement

By Patricia A. Cain | Go to book overview

7
Public Sphere Rights Post- Bowers v. Hardwick

Justice White's opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick held that no constitutionally protected right to engage in homosexual sodomy existed. The entire argument in the case had centered on the question of whether Michael Hardwick's privacy rights were violated by a statute that authorized the Atlanta police to enter his home and arrest him, provided of course reasonable cause existed for believing he might be committing the crime of sodomy. The state of Georgia had argued in its brief that the state intended to continue enforcing the law even if it meant entering private bedrooms. At oral argument, Assistant Attorney General Hobbs stressed over and over again that the antisodomy law was important to the people of Georgia and that it would continue to be enforced. The clear message of the Hardwick decision was that gay men and lesbians had no reason to feel secure in the privacy of their homes. The police determine reasonable cause; thus, would one's identity as a gay person, coupled with the fact that one lived with a partner, be sufficient to warrant intrusion by law enforcement personnel? After all, the cohabitation of a white man and a black woman had been sufficient in Virginia to warrant the local sheriff's intrusion into the bedroom of Richard and Mildred Loving. Or perhaps the police could keep an eye on gay bars and follow same-sex couples to their homes and, after a sufficient amount of time, presume the crime was being committed.

Absolutely no evidence has been found that sodomy arrests escalated after the Hardwick decision, and no reason exists to believe that police officers have increased their surveillance of gay bars looking for potential sodomites. As this lack of interest by law enforcement suggests, the real battle in Hardwick was not over privacy and protection from arrest; the

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