In Romer v. Evans,1887 the Supreme Court struck down a state constitutional amendment which both overturned local ordinances prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians or bisexuals, and prohibited any state or local governmental action to either remedy discrimination or to grant preferences based on sexual orientation. The Court declined to follow the lead of the Supreme Court of Colorado, which had held that the amendment infringed on gays' and lesbians' fundamental right to participate in the political process.1888 The Court also rejected the application of the heightened standard reserved for suspect classes, and sought only to establish whether the legislative classification had a rational relation to a legitimate end.
The Court found that the amendment failed even this restrained review. Animus against a class of persons was not considered by the Court as a legitimate goal of government: "[I]f the constitutional conception of 'equal protection of the laws' means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest."1889 The Court then rejected arguments that the amendment protected the freedom of association rights of landlords and employers, or that it would conserve resources in fighting discrimination against other groups. The Court found that the scope of the law was unnecessarily broad to achieve these stated purposes, and that no other legitimate rationale existed for such a restriction.
1887 517 U.S. 620 (1996).
1888 Evans v. Romer, 854 P.2d 1270 (Colo. 1993).
1889 517 U.S. at 634, quoting Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534 (1973).
Last modified: June 9, 2014