Family Law Keyed to Weisberg

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Bowers v. Hardwick

Citation. Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 106 S. Ct. 2841, 92 L. Ed. 2d 140, 1986 U.S. LEXIS 123, 54 U.S.L.W. 4919 (U.S. June 30, 1986)

Brief Fact Summary. Respondent was charged for committing sodomy after he engaged in the act with another adult male in respondent’s home. Respondent claimed that his status as a homosexual placed him in imminent danger of arrest.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The right to engage in sodomy in the privacy of the home is not a fundamental right protected by the United States Constitution.

Facts. Respondent Hardwick was charged with violating a Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy when he committed that act with another adult male in respondent’s home bedroom. The District Attorney decided not to present the matter to a grand jury, and respondent brought suit claiming that the statute was unconstitutional in criminalizing consensual sodomy. Respondent claimed standing by asserting that he was a practicing homosexual, and that the statute placed him in imminent danger of arrest.

Issue. Does the United States Constitution provide for a fundamental right for homosexuals to engage in sodomy?

Held. The conduct in question is not a fundamental right protected by the Constitution.
Unlike other cases that have found protection for historic, fundamental rights, sodomy has a long history of criminalization and continues to be criminalized in many states today.

Respondent asserts that the conduct should be protected when occurring within the privacy of the home, but other illegal conduct is not always immunized at home.

The law has a rational basis in notions of morality.

Dissent. The Fourth Amendment provides protections for one’s home. The right of adults to conduct intimate relationships in the privacy of the home falls under this protection.

Discussion.
The Court in this case found that sodomy falls outside of the penumbra of Constitutional rights qualifying for heightened judicial protection.