Romer v. Evans was a case that went through the United States Supreme Court and was decided upon in 1996 that dealt with state laws and civil rights.
Romer v. Evans: Background
Colorado voters passed Amendment Two in their State Constitution in 1992 with a 53% vote, which was a measure that did not allow local or state governments to pass any laws that would ban discrimination against gays, particularly by prohibiting the passage of and legislation or policies that would prohibit any sort of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This was a very controversial amendment and many gay rights activists and groups sued in order to have the amendment overturned. The amendment had been strongly promoted an evangelical Christian group called Colorado for Family Values that was based in Colorado Springs. The Governor of Colorado at the time, Roy Romer, who was strongly opposed to the Amendment, was unfortunately required to defend the constitutionality of the Amendment to the Supreme Court, thus the name Romer v. Evans.
Romer v. Evans: Court Decision
The United States Supreme Court gave its ruling on Romer v. Evans on May 20, 1996. The court decided against Amendment Two, which would prevent any town, city, or county from attempting to take any executive, legislative, or judicial action that would allow homosexual citizens to be recognized as a Protected class.
The United States Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Amendment was unconstitutional. that Colorado’s Amendment 2 was unconstitutional. The majority opinion which was written by Justice Kennedy and was joined by O’Conner, Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer, and Souter rejected Amendment Two’s argument of homosexual citizens receiving special rights and stated that the amendment actually imposed a special disability by being forbidden certain safeguards that others can seek or enjoy.
Justice Kennedy further argued in the majority opinion of Romer v. Evans that the protection being offered by any antidiscrimination laws should not be considered a special right because the purpose of these laws were to protect fundamental rights that other citizens already enjoyed. While antidiscrimination laws worked to enumerate the protected groups, this enumeration was only declaratory to put other individuals on notice.
The Amendment discussed in Romer v. Evans not only failed when applying strict scrutiny, but also did not could not even justify a rational relationship with a government purpose or state interest that was legitimate. Furthermore the amendment was considered too narrow yet too broad at the same time. It did this by looking at one single trait and then broadly denying protection to anyone with the trait.
A dissent for Romer v. Evans was written by Justice Scalia and joined by Justice Rehnquist and Thomas. The dissent said that the Amendment was a means to try to preserve the traditional ways that were being undermined by a powerful minority. Furthermore, the dissent said that the amendment simply increased difficulty in passing certain laws, rather than completely denying the political process from homosexuals.