Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2000

Disciplines

Law | Law and Gender | Sexuality and the Law

Abstract

When we think back to where the legal battle for gender equality and the rights of gay people stood a century ago, we see that, in fact, there was not much of a battle. Indeed, advocates for change were seldom triumphant. A survey in 1900 would have shown that American women were twenty years away from obtaining the right to vote, were unfit to be lawyers according to the U.S. Supreme Court, and were nowhere near being eligible-let alone required-to serve on juries. The survey would also have revealed a wide-ranging web of federal and state laws and policies that treated lesbians, gay men, and transgendered people as sexual psychopaths and dangerous perverts requiring incarceration.

Fast forward to today and the picture becomes more complicated. In some respects, we have entered a new and better jurisprudential world with respect to gender and sexuality. For example, the tenor and substance of the Supreme Court's 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, striking down Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2, is light years away from the Court's hostile decision in 1986 sustaining Georgia's sodomy prohibition. No longer do we have a Supreme Court mockingly treating a gay person's constitutional claim as "at best facetious." Similarly, in many states, we have moved beyond the times in which courts regularly expressed utter shock or disgust that gay people would seek to have our relationships and families recognized; in this new era, our claims typically, though not always, receive serious consideration and often prevail.

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