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FALLOUT FROM THE US SUPREME COURT "ROMER" DECISION

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Source: Deb Price column, The Detroit News, 1997-MAY-23

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In 1996-MAY, the US Supreme Court knocked down Colorado's Amendment 2. That amendment to the Colorado State Constitution would have prevented cities towns and counties from passing bylaws protecting gay and lesbian rights. It was passed by a majority of Colorado voters with the support and promotion of many organizations from the Christian religious right. In a 6 to 3 decision "Romer vs. Evans", the US Supreme Court basically said that it is unconstitutional for a state to specifically remove rights from a defined group of people, such as homosexuals. The court decided that:
bulletthe US Constitution guarantees of equal protection for all includes gays and lesbians
bulletanti-gay prejudice is not a legitimate basis for any law
The Supreme Court had, in its "Bowers vs. Hardwick" decision in 1986, upheld the constitutionality of state anti-sodomy laws. By not mentioning that decision in "Romer", they signaled that the 1986 ruling should not be used in any future gay rights decisions by lower courts. Arthur Leonard, author of Sexuality and the Law said "an equal protection claim has to be taken seriously. It can't just be laughed out of court. Courts were just saying, 'Bowers vs. Hardwick. You lose.' They can't say that anymore." Chai Feldblum, a influential lawyer on gay cases stated: Bowers vs. "Hardwick was an 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room, even if it didn't belong there. And now instead we have this lovely orchestra playing." The influence of this decision is being seen in a multitude of instances across the country:
bulletThe Supreme Court decision torpedoed all outstanding anti-gay ballot initiatives.
bulletThe decision encouraged Federal legislators to press for bills to protect gay jobs
bulletThe decision exposed the religious right's lie that homosexuals were seeking "special rights"
bulletA lesbian from Georgia lost a job offer after having a holy union ceremony. In the original case, the three federal judge panel did not accept the ceremony as having any significance. After Romer, the case was re-argued before an expanded panel; the judges went "out of their way to characterize her relationship in a respectful way," Ruth Harlow of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said.
bullet"Romer" was cited by a Florida judge in 1996-NOV to overturn the 1994 Alachua County charter amendment banning gay-rights laws.
bulletFederal Judge Betty Fletcher dissented in a 1997-FEB decision which allowed the Navy to expel a Bronze Start winner because he was gay.
bulletThe National Center for Lesbian Rights is using "Romer" in custody battles in Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee.
bulletLegal actions are now being taken against state sodomy laws - particularly those which are specifically aimed against homosexuals

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