Historic Supreme Court Cases

This is a sampling of some of the major Supreme Court cases that are frequently studied in law school

Sexual Orientation Cases

Bowers v. Hardwick 478 U.S. 186 (1986) (W|L)

  • Practicing homosexual brought action challenging constitutionality of Georgia sodomy statute. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Robert H. Hall, J., granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state claim upon which relief could be granted, and plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals, 760 F.2d 1202, reversed and remanded. After rehearing was denied, 765 F.2d 1123, defendants petitioned for certiorari. The Supreme Court, Justice White, held that Georgia's sodomy statute did not violate the fundamental rights of homosexuals.

Lawrence v. Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003) (W|L)

  • Defendants were convicted in the County Criminal Court at Law No. 10, Harris County, Sherman A. Ross, J., of engaging in homosexual conduct. They appealed. On rehearing en banc, the Texas Court of Appeals, Hudson, J., 41 S.W.3d 349, affirmed. Certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy, overruled its prior decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 106 S.Ct. 2841, 92 L.Ed.2d 140 (1986), and held that Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct was unconstitutional, as applied to adult males who had engaged in consensual act of sodomy in privacy of home.

Romers v. Evans 517 U.S. 620 (1996) (W|L)

  • Homosexual persons, municipalities, and others brought action against governor, state attorney general, and state, challenging validity of amendment to Colorado Constitution that prohibited all legislative, executive, or judicial action designed to protect homosexual persons from discrimination. The District Court, City and County of Denver, H. Jeffrey Bayless, J., 1993 WL 518586, entered permanent injunction enjoining enforcement of amendment, and defendants appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed, 882 P.2d 1335, and certiorari was granted. The Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy, held that amendment violated equal protection clause.

U.S. v. Windsor 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013) (W|L)

  • Taxpayer who, as surviving spouse of same-sex couple, was denied benefit of spousal deduction due to definition of “marriage” and “spouse” provided by Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) brought action for refund of federal estate taxes and for declaration that pertinent provision of DOMA violated Fifth Amendment. After Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to continue its defense of statute, congressional group was allowed to intervene to defend statute's constitutionality.

Hollingsworth v. Perry 133 S.Ct. 2652 (2013) (W|L)

  • Same-sex couples who had been denied marriage licenses brought civil rights action against Governor of California and other state and local officials, alleging that California's Proposition 8, a voter-enacted ballot initiative that amended the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman was valid, thereby eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry, violated their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Initiative's official proponents intervened on behalf of defendants, and municipality and county intervened on behalf of plaintiffs.

Heafey Law Library Research Team