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Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy$
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Nathaniel Persily, Jack Citrin, and Patrick J. Egan

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329414

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329414.001.0001

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Gay Rights

Gay Rights

(p.234) 10 Gay Rights
Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy

Patrick J. Egan

Nathaniel Persily

Kevin Wallsten

Oxford University Press

The controversy surrounding gay rights represents the most recent part in the long story of often unpopular attempts by courts to protect minorities from discrimination and to broaden the constitutional guarantees concerning freedom of intimate associations. This chapter traces the remarkable rise in attitudes favorable toward gay people and gay rights over the past thirty years. It then explores the relationship between court decisions on gay rights and public opinion, with a close examination of the trajectory of opinion before and after two critical Supreme Court decisions regarding gay sex: Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003). In particular, it focuses on how Lawrence—although nominally about sodomy laws—instead catalyzed a highly salient debate over gay marriage, a debate that intensified after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a landmark decision granting gays and lesbians marriage rights in that state.

Keywords:   gay rights, homosexuality, Bowers v. Hardwick, Lawrence v. Texas, same-sex marriage, discrimination, sodomy laws, Massachusetts

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