The Shot Heard Around the LGBT World: Bowers v. Hardwick as a Mobilizing Force for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Touro Law Center Journal of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity, Vol. 4, No. 1, May 2009
29 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2009
Date Written: June 12, 2009
The United States Supreme Court decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which held that laws criminalizing sodomy did not violate the constitutional right to privacy, shocked gays and lesbians. It was a sign that the Court and, by extension, society, did not accept homosexuals. Although it was a clear setback for the gay rights movement, the Bowers decision galvanized gay activists and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) organizations. In particular, in response to Bowers, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force established the Privacy Project to repeal sodomy laws on a state-by-state basis. From 1986-1991, the Privacy Project did not successfully persuade any state legislatures to repeal existing sodomy laws. However, it was able to establish and expand the reach of statewide LGBT organizations, bring together gay and lesbian individuals, educate the public about gay rights issues, and put a “human face” on the gay rights movement. This Article argues that these achievements, when combined with the work of litigators, historians, and other LGBT organizations, and with the passage of time, ultimately set the stage not only for the subsequent repeal of a majority of state sodomy laws, but also for the total invalidation of Bowers by the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas.
Keywords: LGBT, state sodomy laws, Bowers v. Hardwick, Lawrence v. Texas
JEL Classification: K10, K42,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation