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Feminist News


May-22-96

Supreme Court Decision Heralded as Major Victory for Gay Rights

The Supreme Court's Monday 6-3 decision to strike down a Colorado anti-lesbian and gay rights constitutional amendment will have far-reaching effects on the future of the lesbian and gay rights movement. The court ruled that lesbians and gay men cannot be denied government benefits and protections because of their sexual orientation. All concurring judges signed the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who referred to the Justice John Harlan's dissent against upholding separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. Kennedy's brief but strongly-written statement said that public "animus" toward homosexuals does not legitimate discrimination. The extent to which the ruling will affect lawsuits over same-sex marriage, lesbians and gay men in the military, and employment discrimination remains to be seen. Kennedy wrote that the protections which Amendment 2 sought to withhold were basic protections taken for granted by most people, far from the label of "special" used by proponents of the measure. That this decision was reached by a conservative court adds to the weight of its importance. Dissenting were Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas.

Media Resources: The Washington Post - May 22, 1996