When Aspen, Denver and Boulder started passing laws gay rights laws granting same-sex couples tax and health benefits, the bigots at Colorado for Family Values drafted Amendment 2, a Colorado state constitutional amendment that would have prevented any government recognition of homosexuals as a protected class.
RULING: The court ruled 6-3 that Colorado’s Amendment 2 was unconstitutional, concluding Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws do not confer any “special rights” to homosexual citizens but merely extend to them the same rights afforded everyone else. In his decision, Justice Kennedy wrote, “[Amendment 2] is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. [It] seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests.”
WHAT STEVENS DID: Stevens voted with the majority in this case, which laid the groundwork for Lawrence vs. Texas, the case that overturned sodomy laws nationwide. The triumph of gay rights in this case also laid the groundwork for upcoming court cases, by helping determine when LGBTs are targeted as a class to legislative prejudice.
WHY IT MATTERS TODAY: There was a troubling post-script to this case. In 1993, Cincinnati, Ohio passed Ballot Issue 3, a city charter amendment forbidding the adoption or enforcement of civil rights ordinances based on sexual orientation. The Supreme Court refused to hear a case about it and the prejudicial ballot stood until Cincinnati voters overturned it in 2005. The ballot did untold damage to the finances and esteem of Cincinnati’s LGBT citizens during its 12 years. Until we get ENDA passed, any city or county government and private employers can continue to discriminate against us at will.