On May 20, the Supreme Court found Colorado's anti-gay Amendment Two unconstitutional in a 6-3 decision. Following are statements on the decision from various gay and pro-gay groups.
American Civil Liberties Union
Today's decision marks a sea change in the struggle of lesbian and gay men for equality in America. The ruling makes the promise of Equal Protection a reality for lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans. Today, for the first time, the Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not treat lesbians and gay men differently simply out of hostility or fear. In other words, laws which single out lesbians and gay Americans for second-class status, like Amendment 2, violate the basic guarantees of our Constitution.
This ruling is important because it should bring an end to the anti-gay initiatives that have been proposed in states, cities and town across the country over the past several years. As important, it establishes as a general principle that lesbians and gay men are entitled to the same constitutional protections granted to everyone else. This is a profound ruling, one based on long-standing principles, that will bring our country closer to the vision of equality outlined in the Bill of Rights.
Moreover, the Court today firmly rejected the "special rights" rhetoric of those who would exclude lesbians and gay men from political life in America. In doing so, the Justices have disarmed and discredited a major component of the anti-gay agenda. Laws which protect people from discrimination, the Court unequivocally stated, provide equal rights not "special rights."
While this landmark decision won't end the right-wing assault on the gay community, it guarantees that lesbian and gay Americans will be able to fight anti-gay bigotry on an equal footing. Today's decision also puts governments on notice that laws based on hostility to gays and lesbians -- or any other group -- will not be tolerated.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
NEW YORK, NY, May 20, 1996 - The U.S. Supreme Court today announced their highly anticipated ruling in the challenge to Colorado's Amendment 2. The amendment, passed in 1992, is a statewide ballot initiative that would have made it illegal to enact any law protecting lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from discrimination in the state. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and gay civil rights advocates view today's ruling as the single most important gay rights win to date.
While lesbian and gay groups nationwide celebrate the unprecedented gay rights victory, some groups suggest that the lesbian and gay community should remain cautiously optimistic. The radical conservatives, they warn, who have spearheaded the move toward passing local anti-gay legislation nationwide, may pursue their agenda with strategies that satisfy the Supreme Court's objections to Amendment 2, requiring future court challenges.
"Despite today's victory, the final test of the Supreme Court's ruling resides in the court of public opinion," said Donna Red Wing, GLAAD's Community Affairs Director. "Even though gays and lesbians have won an important battle, the war on homophobia continues. GLAAD will build on today's victory with a nationwide media effort to bring accurate images of lesbians and gay men to the public. GLAAD's campaign will show, above all, that gays and lesbians want what every single American wants, and expects-fair and equal treatment."
GLAAD announced a renewed effort to instruct opponents of anti-gay initiatives on how to combat these measures through the media and the Internet. "In our 'Media 101' trainings, we teach the difficult art of communicating one's message on television, in print and on the Information Superhighway," said Donna Red Wing. "We must use all of our resources to fight Amendment 2 clones where ever they crop up."
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is the national organization that promotes fair, accurate, and inclusive representation of individuals and events in all media as a means of combating homophobia and all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
The Supreme Court's ruling today in Romer v. Evans is a breakthrough victory for lesbians and gay men throughout the United States. This landmark, 6-3 ruling should shape the course of civil rights in the United States for decades to come and is the single most positive Supreme Court ruling in the history of the gay rights movement.
The Supreme Court decision makes clear that gay bashing by ballot initiative is unconstitutional. All Americans, gay and non-gay alike, share the same right to seek government protection against discrimination. The Court, relying on a hallmark of American justice, makes clear that a majority cannot trample the rights of an unpopular minority by amending the rules of political participation.
Amendment 2 would have barred all branches of Colorado's state and local government, including public agencies and public schools, from ever prohibiting discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. For example, if a lesbian employee showed that she faced job discrimination, or a student experienced anti-gay harassment in public school, government officials would have been powerless to protect those individuals had Amendment 2 not been invalidated today.
This ruling shatters the "special rights" rhetoric of those who oppose equal treatment for lesbians and gay men.
The Court's majority says: "We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people, either because they already have them, or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society."
The Court's ruling marks an important shift in Supreme Court responses to anti-gay discrimination. Just ten years ago, the Court relied on the "moral disapproval of homosexuality" to justify upholding Georgia's "sodomy" law in Bowers v. Hardwick. Today the Court has said that anti-gay sentiment does not justify governmental discrimination.
We believe the ruling should have ramifications for other attempts to treat gay people as second-class citizens including the military's ban on openly gay service members and proposals to prohibit legal recognition of same-sex couples' marriages.
While we are elated with the ruling, Americans should understand that in Colorado and 40 other states, lesbians and gay men remain without statewide anti-discrimination protections. This ruling simply leaves us free to continue the fight for anti-discrimination laws in our states, cities, and towns.
National Advocacy Coalition on Youth and Sexual Orientation
We can not underestimate the impact of the Supreme Court's Amendment 2 ruling on our nation's gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. With the initial passage of Amendment 2, youth in Colorado and across the country experienced a stinging slap in the face and the erosion of their vision for a safe and supportive future.
While these young people will have to continue to fight their daily battles for survival, the Supreme Court has given them one step toward an equal playing field with their straight peers.
With policy after policy chipping away at the lives of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth over the last year, the Supreme Court's decision provides a gift of hope for a society in which these young people are valued and can take their rightful place as productive citizens.
Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth will go to sleep tonight one step closer to freedom and one step further from state-sanctioned hatred.
National Gay Lesbian Task Force
Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld Amendment 2 as unconstitutional. The 6 to 3 U.S. Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Kennedy in the Colorado Amendment 2 case represents a stunning victory for the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. The decision states in unequivocal terms that state action rendering us second-class citizens is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court, for the first time, has supported in no uncertain terms our moral claim to full citizenship. The decision states that Amendment 2 has no justification other than prejudice towards gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and that is not enough to make it legal.
The decision delegitimizes hateful bigotry designed to restrict our rights as citizens. The court rejected the right-wing rhetoric of "special rights" and instead understood that Amendment 2 and measures like it in fact impose, in their words, a "special disability . . . born of animosity" toward gays and lesbians. It declared that the goals of Amendment 2 bore no rational relation to any legitimate state interest, and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The Court described Amendment 2 as "unprecedented in our jurisprudence."
The decision closes the door to any state measures that explicitly single out gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. However, the decision doesn't block measures such as last year's Maine initiative. The decision implies that efforts to protect us against discrimination are legitimate measures to pursue.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
We are pleased that the Supreme Court has affirmed equal access to our nation's political process for all Americans, including our lesbian, gay and bisexual family members and friends.
American families with lesbian or gay members remain "houses divided." Some of us in our families enjoy equal opportunities and rights, and some continue to be discriminated against. But the Court has determined that the civil rights of a minority will not be held hostage by the prejudices of a majority. Gay and straight Americans will have equal access to the democratic process. While true equal rights still do not exist for lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans, this decision affirms their and their straight family members' and friends' right to continue the fight to secure those rights.
The prejudice and bigotry of the majority towards lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans will be eliminated only through education. PFLAG will continue to fight the lies and myths perpetuated about our lesbian, gay and bisexual family members and friends. We will continue to tell the truth about who they -- and we -- are. We will continue to expose the violent, often tragic consequences of hate speech, and the toll it takes on our entire society.
And we will look forward to the day when the majority of Americans will recognize the true worth of our lesbian, gay and bisexual family members and friends, and will find any form of legal discrimination against them unconscionable.
Rev. Dr. Mel White
Minister of Justice Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
Today, the 250,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Americans served by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Churches join in celebrating the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Colorado's Amendment Two.
Let this glad moment signal the end of the avalanche of anti-homosexual initiatives and the beginning of a process of reconciliation that will help heal our wounded nation.
Justice has prevailed. Now, let us use this time of victory to reach out to our sisters and brothers who fear and misunderstand us. Those who supported Amendment-Two, those who worked to pass anti-homosexual initiatives across America, are not our enemy. They are simply victims of misinformation as we have been.
The 'soul force' principles of Gandhi and King teach us that our only weapon against misinformation, is "truth delivered in love relentlessly." Let us use this moment to renew our dedication to the process of delivering truth in love relentlessly to those who fear and misunderstand us.
We are not fighting to eliminate our friends and neighbors who support these anti-homosexual initiatives. We are working to build a nation where justice prevails for all, where we can live side by side in peace and understanding.
We thank our sisters and brothers, our friends and allies in Colorado, especially the folks at CLIP, and across the nation, P-FLAG, LLDEF, HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, and the others who have stood with us and for us against the avalanche of anti-homosexual initiatives. This is your victory, too.
The Supreme Court decision makes it clear. Your cause, our cause, is just. We are grateful for the courage, the creativity, and the commitment you have demonstrated on behalf of God's lesbigay children.
White House Statement
Press Briefing by Mike McCurry
Q: The U.S. Supreme Court this morning ruled that in the Colorado -- case that you can't single out one group of people, gays, and remove them from equal protection under the law. I'm wondering if that decision might change where Clinton stands now and his willingness to sign the defense of marriage act.
MR. MCCURRY: The President believes the day's decision was appropriate. The Colorado law denied a group of citizens the right to participate effectively in the political process in Colorado, and the President believes that's bad public policy. It's also inconsistent with our common values and principles that make our nation strong, and it does not change his view on that other particular piece of legislation.
Q: What is, exactly, his view of that piece of legislation which you've never --
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't changed our current posture. We are analyzing that legislation.
Q: But he doesn't have --
MR. MCCURRY: And it hasn't passed yet.
Q: -- a view on it yet?
MR. MCCURRY: We have not expressed a view on that legislation.
Q: Can I follow up on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q: Can we stay on that subject for a second? How does that square with the President's opposition then to same-sex marriage?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a different issue. That's an issue that goes to the President's personal beliefs about marriage and what marriage should be as an institution in our family life. This is a very particular opinion by the Court which our legal counsel is still looking at that addresses the rights of individual groups of Americans to have redress in our political system.
Q: Well, I understand that, but this group of Americans has decided that they have the right to have a same-sex marriage. I mean, I don't understand how then the President --
MR. MCCURRY: The issue before the Court in the decision today was what rights they have in Colorado to have access to the legislative process, and that was what the Court looked at and examined and ruled on, as you can see from the majority opinion. . . .
Q: When and if Senator Dole keeps talking about liberal decisions by Clinton-appointed judges, will you, in light of today's Supreme Court pro-gay rights decision, point to that as an example of Republican-appointed conservative judges making liberal decisions?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Probably not -- I should say, probably not.
. . .
Q: On same-sex marriage, when do you expect to have a position on the legislation? It doesn't seem to be a particularly complex kind of issue.
MR. MCCURRY: When one is developed and when one is looked at. It's also not clear what the prognosis for the legislation is and what form it will take as it's being considered on the Hill.
Patricia Nell Warren: "My Two Cents on Amendment 2"
Unpacking boxes and reorganizing my office after a move, I am pondering the meaning of change. In a society, real change is seldom visible to the naked eye. That's why I gave my column its name. We seldom see, or even want to see, the real news -- any more than we can visually track the gene drift of insects as their immune systems learn to resist pesticides.
TV has become the be-all of how our culture "sees life." Yet real life is so complex that TV news can't package it all into nice neat 60-second slots -- any more than a single wildlife documentary can capture the messy intricacy of biomass in a rain forest. CNN used to delight its first fans because it had such a raw unedited true-life style. These days, CNN has hardened off into standard news formats, just another empire built on sound bytes.
An event becomes a "non-event" if it gets bumped by something more urgent, or if it is too scary to discuss -- like Steven Wilson's murder, or the highly infectious nature of CFS, or the falling curve of available U.S. farmland heading for its rendezvous with the curve of U.S. food needs. ( And if the radical-right family promoters have their way, the new baby boom will drive our population swiftly to that fateful meeting.)
In an election year, the TV-ization of news becomes more urgent. Politicians, their handlers, their believing supporters all want flags waved, cages rattled, buttons pushed, doomsdays predicted.
Much is said about the Roman Empire, and how its "decline of morality" and its "fall" relates to U.S. life today. Probably the citizens of the Roman Empire in 400 A.D. had little inkling that anything was "falling" -- they may have noticed aqueducts going unrepaired, a rise in the price of olive oil, the banning of spectacles. Suddenly a new state religion -- Christianity -- was heading the state, and soldiers were going around knocking the heads off statues of the old Gods and Goddesses. The fact is, the Roman Empire didn't "fall" at all -- its laws and bureaucracy were simply re-evolved into the new religion. But newscasters and historians love the simplicity of statements like "Rome fell," "the American radical right rose to power," "a jet plane crashed in the Everglades," "So-and-so has AIDS."
Right now, much is being made of the Supreme Court decision on Amendment 2, and right-wing reactions to same Yet, beyond party rhetoric, the fact that prison building and convict labor is becoming a major economic force may weigh more heavily in the next 20 years than any single court decision. Domestic convicts are way cheaper than workers in Macau or El Salvador. What simpler way to score points with voters, end unemployment and crime, even get rid of troublesome unions and minorities, than to fill our prisons with young able-bodied "workers"? No wonder our government doesn't have a philosophical problem buying prison-made products from the Republic of China! Oh, and what better way to "reform" gay men or lesbians into "useful, productive citizens" than to put them to work on a prison production line?
To accomplish this "goal", both Republicans and Democrats must pass laws that criminalize more and more things, and mandate longer sentences. And this, in fact, is what both sides are doing. Our so-called wars on drugs, youth crime, violence, sex offenders, illegal aliens, even the criminalizing of people who purvey four-letter words on the Internet, are actually having the effect of sweeping a lot of first-time offenders into prison, swelling the rank and file of the Jailbirds Union.
But how much of TV focuses on this kind of glitch in our spiritual genes?
So this column aims for digital-camera glimpses of those deeper evolutions -- those slippery recombinings of our cultural DNA. As a writer, I want to see broader bytes on those fears, beliefs, myths and rules that wind us all into a human helix.