Over the past two decades, numerous states have enacted legislation prohibiting discrimination in such areas as housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1992, Colorado voters enacted a state constitutional amendment prohibiting laws offering such protection to homosexuals.
In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado amendment violated homosexuals' right to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution does not specifically bar discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. However, courts have determined that groups of people similarly situated have a right to equal treatment. In the Colorado case, the high court ruled that homosexuals and heterosexuals are similarly situated, in constitutional terms. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do."
The question becomes how, or whether, that ruling can be applied to Hawaii's same-sex marriage controversy, which has generated national attention.
The Hawaii Supreme Court is poised to approve same-sex marriage unless the state can show it has a "compelling interest" in maintaining the current ban. Efforts in the last session of the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage failed. In view of the latest decision, such a constitutional amendment, if enacted, is not certain to be upheld at the federal level.
Courts have made giant strides in their view of homosexual relationships. Only 10 years ago, the Supreme Court upheld a Georgia statute that made specified homosexual acts a crime. Today's courts are not far away from providing protection on the basis of sexual preference in all aspects of life.
Rupert E. Phillips, CEO
John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher
David Shapiro, Managing Editor
Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor
Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors
A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor