BOWERS v. HARDWICK

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
85-140
Petitioner 
Bowers
Respondent 
Hardwick
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
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Term:
Facts of the Case 

Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute's constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia's statute was unconstitutional. Georgia's Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.

Question 

Does the Constitution confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in consensual sodomy, thereby invalidating the laws of many states which make such conduct illegal?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Bowers, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Due Process

No. The divided Court found that there was no constitutional protection for acts of sodomy, and that states could outlaw those practices. Justice Byron White argued that the Court has acted to protect rights not easily identifiable in the Constitution only when those rights are "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" (Palko v. Connecticut, 1937) or when they are "deeply rooted in the Nation's history and tradition" (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The Court held that the right to commit sodomy did not meet either of these standards. White feared that guaranteeing a right to sodomy would be the product of "judge-made constitutional law" and send the Court down the road of illegitimacy.

Cite this Page
BOWERS v. HARDWICK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 21 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_140>.
BOWERS v. HARDWICK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_140 (last visited December 21, 2014).
"BOWERS v. HARDWICK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 21, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1985/1985_85_140.