Bowers v. Hardwick

478 U.S. 186
Brief Filed: 1/86
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Year of Decision: 1986

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 680KB)

Issue

Whether Georgia's sodomy law which outlawed private sexual conduct between consenting adults was constitutional

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (anti-sodomy law)

Facts

Georgia law criminalized certain noncommercial, nonviolent sexual conduct between consenting adults, whether married or not, even if occurring in the privacy of one's own bedroom. After being charged with violating the Georgia statute, Hardwick brought suit in federal district court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute insofar as it criminalized consensual sodomy. The court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the Georgia statute violated Hardwick's fundamental rights. The state petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari which was granted.

APA's position

APA and the American Public Health Association submitted an amicus brief arguing that: (1) the Georgia statute implicated fundamental privacy interests that are basic to marital and nonmarital heterosexual and homosexual relationships and prohibited and criminally punished sexual conduct that is common and not psychologically harmful; (2) the freedom to express intimacy through the sexual conduct prohibited by the Georgia statute is important to intimate human relationships and the psychological health of individuals and may be among the only kinds of intimate sexual conduct available for many disabled heterosexual people; and (3) the Georgia statute did not serve the legitimate objectives of improving either public health or individual mental health and was counterproductive to public health goals and mental health objectives.

Results

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Georgia statute by a 5-4 vote.