Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 30, 1996 issue of Workers World newspaper
The lesbian and gay community won a tremendous, historic victory May 20 when the United States Supreme Court ruled that Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2 was unconstitutional.
The decision essentially rebuffed the right wing's effort to single out gay people as ineligible for civil rights. As such, it was a step forward in the class struggle and a win for all oppressed and working people everywhere.
The ruling marks a major advance in the fight for lesbian and gay rights. Although it is a defensive victory--setting back an attack on civil rights rather than confirming the rights themselves--it is still a turning point in the long march toward equality.
Much as the court's 1954 ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education school-desegregation case both reflected the power of the civil-rights movement and helped pave the way for it to pick up steam, this ruling can is a result of and can provide a boost to the gay movement. As activists at celebration rallies around the country said, "Now we can push forward and win our rights."
Workers World Party presidential candidate Monica Moorehead issued a statement congratulating the lesbian, gay, bi and transgender community. She said, "It is your many years of struggle--in the streets and in the faces of the ruling class and its hired bigots--that won this victory."
What prompted this concession to an oppressed group? Above all, it was the strength and power of the movement over the last 30 years.
And it was fear of the movement taking to the streets in vast numbers once again. That prospect worried the ruling class enough for the court, made up mostly of Reagan/Bush appointees, to issue a pro-gay decision.
By a strong majority--six to three--the high court overturned an amendment to Colorado's state constitution. Passed in a 1992 referendum, the amendment would have barred the state and any local government from outlawing anti-gay discrimination.
It had never been enforced because of legal challenges. But when the Colorado Supreme Court overturned Amendment 2, Democratic Gov. Roy Romer sided with the forces of reaction, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the anti-gay measure.
The right wing was confident it would win and could continue using anti-gay referenda, a favorite tactic in recent years, to foment homophobia and divide people.
Instead, legal experts say the high court's finding--that the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection applies to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people--will be a real blow to the anti-gay forces.
In fact, this is the Supreme Court's first ruling ever supporting any aspect of gay rights. In every other case-- including those involving the Pentagon's ban on gay soldiers--the court has always ruled for oppression.
The timing was very interesting. It came not only in an election year, but just 10 days before the start of Pride celebrations around the country--a month of outpourings of the lesbian and gay community.
If the verdict had affirmed anti-gay discrimination, would there have been rebellions in the streets of every major city? That's what happened 10 years ago, after the infamous Hardwick decision.
In that case, the court upheld Georgia's "sodomy" law, ruling that states have the right to make homosexuality a crime. Reaction was swift and furious. Thousands took to the streets in cities around the country.
This time the court sought to prevent another such outpouring.
Of course, the extreme right wing of the bourgeoisie remains committed to war against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. But the court indicated that another view prevails in the ruling class, at least for now.
Given the deepening crisis facing workers and oppressed people with jobs disappearing and wages dropping, goes this view, it wouldn't be prudent to provoke an upsurge in the struggle. There is now relative social stability, and the bourgeoisie wants to keep it that way.
Well over 30 years of political struggle led to the ruling.
It did not emerge from the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. Rather, its roots are in the streets of Greenwich Village, where the 1969 eruption of the Stonewall Rebellion gave rise to the modern gay movement.
Still, many people were shocked at the ruling. Pointing to the Supreme Court's generally reactionary character, and the extremely right-wing make-up of its current roster in particular, some had assumed an anti-gay ruling was a foregone conclusion.
The surprise should remind everyone that whoever holds office--in Congress, the White House, or the courts--it's the mass struggle that is decisive.
The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision came during the Republican Eisenhower administration at the height of the Cold War. The 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizing abortion came on President Richard Nixon's watch, from a conservative court. Like those decisions, the Colorado ruling was also borne of struggle.
The strength of the movement--the fight for gay rights that the right wing has never been able to turn back--wrote this ruling. Moorehead said: "This community of fighters for liberation deserves all the credit for demanding what is right.
"President Bill Clinton, in contrast, deserves no credit."
Workers World Party's John Peter Daly, a longtime gay activist who is running as the Peace and Freedom candidate for Congress in California's 29th district, noted: "Clinton ordered his Justice Department not to file a friend-of-the- court brief siding with the gay community in the Colorado case.
"This was only one betrayal in a long series--from his reversal on gays in the military to the latest outrage, his support of a federal ban on same-sex marriage."
The majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy was strongly worded. It upheld the legal argument that--in the absence of any federal law banning anti-gay discrimination-- the Constitution's Equal Protection clause must be invoked.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights organization that was co-counsel on the case, proclaimed the ruling a major step forward. Lambda's Suzanne Goldberg said the decision "brings us closer to securing the fundamental rights of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals."
At a May 20 news conference at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center in New York, Goldberg called the ruling "the most important victory for the lesbian and gay civil rights movement."
On May 20 and 21, victory rallies took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston and other cities.
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