Romer v. Evans 1996

Author:Daniel Brannen, Richard Hanes, Elizabeth Shaw

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Petitioner: Roy Romer, Governor of Colorado, and others

Respondent: Richard G. Evans and others

Petitioner's Claim: That the Colorado Supreme Court erred in striking down a state constitutional amendment prohibiting any government efforts to protect homosexuals against discrimination.

Chief Lawyers for Petitioner: Timothy M. Tymkovich

Chief Lawyers for Respondent: Jean E. Dubofsky

Justices for the Court: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens

Justices Dissenting: Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas

Date of Decision: May 20, 1996

Decision: Agreeing with the Colorado Supreme Court, ruled in favor of Evans that the state amendment prohibiting protections of gay and lesbian rights was unconstitutional.

Significance: First victory of gay and lesbian civil rights in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court gave homosexuals constitutional protection against government or private discrimination.

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Gay men and lesbians number in the millions and are found in every sector of American society—doctors, nurses, computer whizzes, musicians, athletes, teachers, construction workers, dads, moms, and teenagers. The terms gay and lesbian refer to people who are sexually attracted to and prefer persons of the same sex. Though the term gay can refer to either men or women, gay usually is used in referring to men and lesbian always refers to women. Homosexual is another term which refers to both gay men and lesbians.

Throughout most of America's history, homosexuals have kept their sexual orientation (the sexual preference of an individual for one sex or the other) a secret or "in the closet." Secrecy was important because homosexuality has been considered a criminal offense in state and local laws, and religious organizations condemned the behavior. However, a fight in a New York bar in 1969 marked the beginning of a nationwide "coming out."

The Coming Out

"Coming out" is the name gay and lesbians give the process of identifying, accepting, and then disclosing their sexual orientation. On June 27,

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1969 in New York, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Greenwich Village. Raiding gay bars was not an uncommon police activity all across America. However, this time the people inside the bar resisted arrest and clashed with the city police. For three nights New York gays rioted, releasing years of suppressed frustration over the discrimination they experienced daily. Especially for younger gay men and women, Stonewall became a symbol of a new attitude of openly "coming out." Resisting negative stereotyping (fixed mental picture or a fixed attitude toward something) and legal and social discrimination suddenly became more common.

Gay Rights Movement is Born

Every year after the Stonewall riots, homosexuals marched in...

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