Homosexuals- A Suspect Class

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 for the measure. Richard Evans sued the state and Governor Romer (who, ironically, opposed the amendment) under the Fourteenth Amendment\'s Equal Protection Clause, saying that Amendment 2 infringes upon the homosexual\'s "fundamental right to participate in the democratic process." Romer v. Evans has had amicus curiae or "friend of the court" briefs filed for both sides--briefs that have pitted state against state and church against church. Colorado officials are quick to say that their state is not acting out of hate, but merely deciding in a democratic fashion whether homosexuals need to be singled out for protection against discrimination. The Colorado Supreme Court, however, struck down the amendment, saying:
[Amendment 2] bars gay men, lesbians and bisexuals from having an effective voice in governmental affairs, insofar as those persons deem it beneficial to seek legislation that would protect them from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. The United States Supreme Court must now determine whether or not to uphold the Colorado Supreme Court\'s decision, despite the results of the referendum that was basically a public affirmation of orthodox Christian beliefs.
For hundreds of years homosexuality has been uniformly condemned by traditional Christian societies as immoral. On that ground, it was never contested that sodomy should remain illegal and unprotected by any legislation--homosexuals were considered unnatural sexual deviants, and were treated as such. In recent years, however, startling new research has indicated that homosexuality is possibly inherited and determined by chromosomes. A 1992 study directed by neuroscientist Simon LeVay showed that a tiny area believed to control sexual activity known as the hypothalamus was less than half the size in gay men as in heterosexual men. This study raises an interesting question: If homosexuality is hereditary, is there any basis for societal discrimination against something innate?
The reactions of the homosexual community have been mixed. As many see it, looking for a "cause" of homosexuality suggests that it is an abnormality, and implies that it is deviant from a "normal" heterosexuality. On the other hand, history has shown that society\'s perception of gay activities can be threatening, if not deadly. Over the centuries they have either been merely "intolerated" or, more often, detested. After a 13th century sermon from Saint Thomas Aquinas, society began to view gays as "not only unnatural but dangerous." A genetic component in sexual orientation would tell homosexuals and the world that homosexuality is not a fault, and not the fault of anyone other than nature.