Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History
SUPREME COURT HISTORY
Expanding Civil Rights
Just Change
E-Mail this Page Print Format Glossary

Privacy Rights for Homosexuals: Gay Rights 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Bowers v. Hardwick documents, gay rights protest
Bowers v. Hardwick

In Bowers v. Hardwick, Justice Byron White wrote the decision for a bitterly divided 5-4 majority. In that opinion, Justice White found that Georgia could enforce a statute prohibiting homosexual sodomy. He said that the state is within its bounds to regulate morality and that he believed it improper to expand the scope of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and its according privacy rights to protect homosexual relations.
Photographic Portrait of Justice White
"Nor are we inclined to take a more expansive view of our authority to discover new fundamental rights imbedded in the Due Process Clause. The Court is most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law having little or no cognizable roots in the language or design of the Constitution." -- Justice Byron White

Lawrence v. Texas

In this decision, less than 20 years after the Hardwick decision finding antisodomy law constitutional, the Supreme Court reconsidered that same questions and found a similar Texas statue criminalizing sodomy unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for 6-3 majority, reasoned that private consensual intimate conduct was among the privacy rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Photographic Portrait of Justice Anthony Kennedy
"The central holding of Bowers has been brought in question by this case, and it should be addressed. Its continuance as precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons. Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled." -- Justice Anthony Kennedy

BACK NEXT