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LGBT Resources at Brooklyn Law School Library: Major Federal LGBT Cases

Introductory guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) resources at Brooklyn Law School Library

Supreme Court Decisions

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."

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 on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8. The ruling will remove legal battles for same-sex couples wishing to marry in California.

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.

Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

 

Appelate Court Decisions

Subject Guide

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