May 20

This Day in History

General Interest

May 20, 1996:

Supreme Court defends rights of homosexuals

In a victory for the gay and lesbian civil rights movement, the U.S. Supreme Court votes six to three to strike down an amendment to Colorado's state constitution that would have prevented any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of homosexuals.

Colorado's Amendment Two was passed in 1992 with a majority of the state's citizens approving it in a special referendum. Four years later, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Romer v. Evans, a case that allowed the nation's highest court to scrutinize the constitutionality of the amendment. On May 20, 1996, in a ruling authored by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court struck down Amendment Two, arguing that the law violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Although the ruling, authored by a Republican appointee, was cautious in its language, it was applauded as a major civil rights victory that gave gay and lesbian activists their first major constitutional precedence for fighting anti-gay legislation.

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