Tuesday, May 21, 1996

Supreme Court victory for homosexual rights

HOMOSEXUALS have won an important U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Colorado law denying them equal rights as a protected class. The high court's opinion will be felt far beyond Colorado and could be a factor in the Hawaii controversy over whether marriages between homosexuals should be legalized.

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.

Other editorials in brief:

Royal Hawaiian Band

MEMBERS of the City Council disclaim any intention to deny city funding to the Royal Hawaiian Band. But the musicians are suspicious and unhappy with a proposal to encourage the band to generate more income by charging fees for some performances and by selling its recordings. It doesn't seem unreasonable for the band to try to make up that $12,000 and maybe more on its own through fees. Private contributions would help, too.

Iraq's oil sales

THE agreement permitting Iraq to sell $1 billion worth of oil every 90 days could have been signed years ago if Saddam Hussein had some compassion for his people. Iraqis have suffered severely under the sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Malnutrition and illness, sometimes fatal, have resulted from a lack of food and medicine that could not be imported.

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