The Power of Dignity

21 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2015 Last revised: 1 Nov 2015

Date Written: October 27, 2015


Obergefell v. Hodges is not a perfect decision, but the Court’s powerful recognition of the dignity to which gay men and lesbians are entitled is a watershed accomplishment worthy of celebration. In the last 50 years, the place of gay men and lesbians in American society and American law has changed dramatically. It is a long distance from the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder and the potential for a gay person to fail the character and fitness requirement for bar admission merely for being gay. The Supreme Court also has made significant shifts. It reified the stigma of homosexuality in Bowers v. Hardwick, but then rejected the legal ostracizing of gay and lesbian people in Romer v. Evans, and ultimately embraced the dignity of gay men and lesbians in Lawrence v. Texas, U.S. v. Windsor, and Obergefell v. Hodges. The Court’s decision not to clarify Equal Protection doctrine — among other potential shortcomings of the decision — should not overshadow the tremendous contribution of the decision to enhancing the long-denied dignity of gay men and lesbians in the courts and more generally.

Keywords: marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, LGBT, Obergefell, dignity

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Elizabeth B., The Power of Dignity (October 27, 2015). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 84, No. 3, 2015, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2681142, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth B. Cooper (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 W. 62nd St., 9th Floor
New York, NY 10023
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics