Romer v. Evans

Following is the case brief for Romer v. Evans, United States Supreme Court, (1996)

Case summary for Romer v. Evans:

  • Colorado passed a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In response, voters passed Amendment two, an anti-protection law against discrimination.
  • As representative, Evans brought suit against Governor Romer claiming the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
  • The trial court found for Evans and the case was eventually heard by the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • The Court found that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it targets the suspect class of homosexuals and is not rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.

Romer v. Evans Case Brief

Statement of the facts:

Multiple municipalities in Colorado passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Colorado voters responded by passing a law called Amendment two, which prevented the government from intervening to protect the status of persons based on sexual orientation conduct, practices, or relationships.

As representative of municipalities and homosexual persons in Colorado, Evans brought suit in state court against the Governor, claiming that Amendment two was unconstitutional.  At trial, the court enjoined enforcement of the law finding it unconstitutional.

Procedural History:

On appeal the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed, finding Amendment two was subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

If a state law neither burdens a fundamental right nor targets a suspect class, it will be upheld under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause when it has a rational relation to a legitimate state interest.

Issue and Holding:

Is it constitutional under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, for a state to pass a law that prohibits state and local governments from enacting anti-discriminatory legislation to protect homosexuals? No.

Judgment: 

The state Supreme Court decision is affirmed.

Reasoning:

Colorado argued Amendment two is was constitutional since it put gays and lesbians in the same position as all others. The state’s Supreme Court held that Amendment two repeals existing regulations, statutes and policies preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The purpose of Amendment two is to prevent laws protecting gays and lesbians from enactment. The Court held this does show differential treatment as it forbids reinstating laws, which would protect their interest, in both public and private sectors.

For a law to be constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment it cannot target a suspect class or burden a fundamental right. , The law must be rationally related to a legitimate state purpose.

Understanding the true meaning of Amendment two, the law fails constitutional scrutiny, specifically under the 14th Amendment. This is because the law targets the suspect class of homosexual persons based on animosity, bearing no rational relation to any legitimate state purpose.

In addition, the law is both too broad and narrow because it defines an entire group of people based on a single trait to discriminate against them all in every aspect of their rights. The law also violates the Equal Protection Clause because a targeted and injurious denial of basic rights cannot bear a rational relation to a legitimate state interest.

Dissenting or Concurring opinion:

Dissenting (Scalia):

The holding is misguided and fails to use proper precedent. The majority wrongfully characterizes Amendment two as a display of more animosity towards gays and lesbians than it actually contains. The law is not an attack on homosexual’s rights, but an attempt to preserve traditional sexual mores.

In addition, the Equal Protection Clause should not be used in the present case to uphold the rights of homosexuals as a class.

Significance:

The Court’s ruling in Romer v.Evans, established that homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals possess the same rights as any group of persons to seek governmental protection against discrimination.

Student Resources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/94-1039.ZO.html
https://www.oyez.org/cases/1995/94-1039

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