Today marks the 20th anniversary of Romer v. Evans, the landmark Supreme Court decision that laid the legal groundwork for some of our community's biggest victories including US v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges. In Romer, the Supreme Court determined that a Colorado anti-gay voter referendum violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Several Colorado municipalities had passed protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the employment, housing, healthcare and other basic services. In response, in 1992 Colorado voters adopted Amendment 2 to the Colorado Constitution, which precluded these protections and any judicial, legislative or executive action designed to protect LGB people from discrimination. The Court ruled found Amendment's two blatant targeting of LGB people for discrimination to be a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.
In addition to strengthening the legal foundation for LGBT civil rights in the Constitution under the 14th amendment, Romer also sent a powerful message to lawmakers and courts that homophobia, or as the court described it a "bare... desire to harm a politically unpopular group," can never be a legitimate state interest.
Over the past two decades we have made tremendous strides towards equality for LGBT people nationwide. President Obama has led the most pro-equality administration in history, implementing a myriad of federal protections in healthcare, employment and housing. Many states and cities across the country now provide local protections as well. However, we also mark this anniversary with the somber acknowledgement that there is much left undone. As we have seen in North Carolina over the past months there are powerful forces transforming "bare animus" into state sanctioned bullying. The decision in Romer is as powerful and as poignant today as it was in 1996 --- in America laws can't be made because of hate.