Homosexuals: A Suspect Class?

Essay by Bob Jones1College, UndergraduateA+, September 1996

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Homosexuals: A Suspect Class?

The struggle for minority protection by lesbians and gay men has moved to the center of American life at the outset of the 1990's. It is almost certain that lesbian and gay issues will be a more eminent aspect of the public consciousness and American political scene in the coming decade than in any other time in American history. Policy changes early in Bill Clinton's administration created a heated debate over the military presence of gays and lesbians, several states have passed amendments prohibiting laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination, and nearly every religious organization in the nation is facing tough questions ranging from the ordination of homosexuals to homosexual marriages. Furthermore, the homosexual community is more prominent than ever: Lesbians and gay men are fighting for civil rights in the courtroom and in Congress, there are gay characters on prime-time television shows, well-known public figures openly discussing their homosexuality, and there is virtually no one who can claim that they have never had contact with a homosexual.

In the middle of all this publicity, there lingers a pending Supreme Court case in which the fate of the homosexual lies: Romer v. Evans, a case that dominated Colorado that has come to 'symbolize the controversy over gay legal rights' throughout the nation. This paper will trace the elements behind that case, and attempt to focus on the steps the Supreme Court will follow to determine whether homosexuality must be legally considered a 'suspect class' for the purposes of 'quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination' as outlined by Colorado's now-famous Amendment 2.

Amendment 2 does away with any attempt to protect homosexuals as a group that needs special rights because of discrimination. It was enacted after a statewide referendum, in which 53% voted...