Romer v. Evans

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Summary

Amendment 2 was a statewide antigay initiative prohibiting all branches of state government in Colorado from passing legislation or adopting policies prohibiting discrimination against lesbians, gay men or bisexuals based on their sexual orientation. The measure was passed in 1992 by 53 percent of Colorado’s voters. Working with the ACLU and the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, Lambda Legal won preliminary court rulings that kept the measure from taking effect until this lawsuit was resolved. The case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down Amendment 2 in a landmark 6–3 ruling. In declaring Amendment 2 unconstitutional, the Court made clear that antigay sentiment does not justify governmental discrimination and shattered the “special rights” rhetoric of those who oppose equal treatment for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Context

Antigay forces in the early 1990s mounted voter initiatives at local and state levels to block and repeal the passage of laws and policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. This case put an end to those efforts and led the way for numerous additional states and local governments to ban such discrimination by statute, ordinance, directive or policy.

Lambda Legal's Impact

This landmark victory was the single most positive Supreme Court ruling in the history of the gay rights movement when it was decided. The Court’s ruling made clear that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals have the same right to seek government protection against discrimination in the United States as any other group of people. The decision also marked a new level of legal respect for LGBT people and rejected the notion that it is legitimate for the government to discriminate against gay people based on moral objections to homosexuality.

History

  • November 1992 Lawsuit is filed to prevent enforcement of Amendment 2, which had just been adopted by voter initiative and prohibited any branch of government in Colorado from adopting legislation or prohibiting discrimination against lesbians, gay men or bisexuals. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court grants a preliminary injunction, keeping the measure from going into effect until a trial is held.
  • July 1993 Colorado supreme court affirms grant of a preliminary injunction.
  • October 1993 After a trial on whether the state has a compelling interest to justify Amendment 2 trial court finds that it does not meet this interest and enters an order permanently stopping the measure from taking effect.
  • October 1994 Colorado Supreme Court affirms the grant of the permanent injunction, concluding that Amendment 2 violates fundamental rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals under the U.S. Constitution to participate in the political process and is not necessary to serve any compelling government interest in a narrowly way.
  • February 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decides to hear the case.
  • June 1995 Lambda Legal and its co-counsel file brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find Amendment 2 unconstitutional.
  • October 1995 Oral arguments presented before the U. S. Supreme Court.
  • May 1996 Victory! U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Amendment 2 in landmark 6–3 ruling.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Landmark Case, Victory

Plaintiffs

Richard G. Evans, Angela Romero, Linda Fowler, Paul Brown, Priscilla Inkpen, John Miller, Martina Navratilova, Bret Tanberg, the Boulder Valley School District RE-2, the City and County of Denver, the City of Boulder, the City of Aspen, and the City Council of Aspen

Attorneys

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Matthew Coles and Steven R. Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; David H. Miller of the ACLU of Colorado; Jean E. Dubofsky and Roderick M. Hills of Jean E. Dubofsky, P.C.; Clyde J. Wadsworth, then of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati; Jeane Winer of Winer & Ramsay; Gregory A. Eurich of Holland & Hart; Walter A. Smith of Hogan & Hartson; Darlene M. Ebert of the Denver City Attorney’s Office; and Boulder City Attorney Joseph N. De Raismes, III