Romer v. Evans
517 U.S. 620
May 20, 1996
Homosexual persons, municipalities, and others brought action against governor, state attorney general,
and state, challenging validity of amendment to Colorado Constitution that prohibited all legislative, executive,
or judicial action designed to protect homosexual persons from discrimination.
delivered the opinion of the Court.
One century ago, the first Justice Harlan admonished this Court that the Constitution “neither knows nor
tolerates classes among citizens.”
Plessy v. Ferguson,
163 U.S. 537, 559, 16 S.Ct. 1138, 1146, 41 L.Ed. 256
. Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law's neutrality where
the rights of persons are at stake. The Equal Protection Clause enforces this principle and today requires us to
hold invalid a provision of Colorado's Constitution.
The enactment challenged in this case is an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Colorado,
adopted in a 1992 statewide referendum. The parties and the state courts refer to it as “Amendment 2,” its
designation when submitted to the voters. The impetus for the amendment and the contentious campaign that
preceded its adoption came in large part from ordinances that had been passed in various Colorado
municipalities. For example, the cities of Aspen and Boulder and the city and County of Denver each
had enacted ordinances which banned discrimination in many transactions and activities, including housing,
employment, education, public accommodations, and health and welfare services. Denver Rev. Municipal
Code, Art. IV, §§ 28-91 to 28-116 (1991); Aspen Municipal Code § 13-98 (1977); Boulder Rev.Code §§ 12-1-1
to 12-1-11 (1987). What gave rise to the statewide controversy was the protection the ordinances afforded to
persons discriminated against by reason of their sexual orientation. See Boulder Rev.Code § 12-1-1 (defining
“sexual orientation” as “the choice of sexual partners, i.e., bisexual, homosexual or heterosexual”); Denver Rev.
Municipal Code, Art. IV, § 28-92 (defining “sexual orientation” as “[t]he status of an individual as to his or her
heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality”). Amendment 2 repeals these ordinances to the extent they
prohibit discrimination on the basis of “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or
Colo. Const., Art. II, § 30b
Yet Amendment 2, in explicit terms, does more than repeal or rescind these provisions. It prohibits all