Magazine article The Progressive

Get out the Champagne

Magazine article The Progressive

Get out the Champagne

Article excerpt

Monday, May 20, 1996, was a monumental day for lesbian and gay Americans. The Supreme Court struck down Colorado's Amendment 2--a provision that had nullified existing civil-rights protections for gays and lesbians, and had barred any new anti-discrimination laws in the state.

The Supreme Court recognized that this was an extremely important civil-rights case. "We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else," wrote Anthony M. Kennedy, the author of the majority decision. "This Colorado cannot do. A state cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws."

In the gay community, there was exuberant celebration.

"The Supreme Court vindicated gay America," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign. "You can see a whole new tone [in this decision]. No civil rights actually got conferred on any gay American, but this allowed us to break through to a whole new context of hope."

But the hostility to gays and lesbians was still evident in the court. The three dissenters, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, did not hide their preference for traditional sex roles.

The group accused the majority of taking victory "away from traditional forces," and Rehnquist called the Colorado Amendment an "eminently reasonable" means of halting the "piecemeal deterioration of the sexual morality favored by a majority of Coloradans." Justice Scalia tried to reduce the decision to cultural elitism. "This court has no business imposing upon all Americans the resolution favored by the elite class from which the members of this institution are selected, pronouncing that 'animosity' toward homosexuality, ante, is evil," he said.

Decriers of the Supreme Court decision accused the justices of taking democracy out of the hands of the people. …

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