Gay Rights

Patrick J. Egan, Nathaniel Persily, Kevin Wallsten

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPublic Opinion and Constitutional Controversy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199851720
ISBN (Print)9780195329414
StatePublished - Oct 3 2011


  • Bowers v. hardwick
  • Discrimination
  • Gay rights
  • Homosexuality
  • Lawrence v. texas
  • Massachusetts
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Sodomy laws

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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