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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High Court Overturns Anti-Gay Legislation

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court struck down on Monday a Colorado state requirement outlawing legal protections intended solely for homosexuals in the high court's first major gay-rights decision in 10 years.

The court, by a 6-3 vote, declared that a 1992 measure barring state or local governments in Colorado from adopting homosexual rights laws denies gays and lesbians equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court majority that the law unfairly singles out persons based on a single trait, their sexual orientation, and then denies them the possibility of legal protections across the board.

Justice Antonin Scalia was joined in dissent by the court's two other most conservative members, Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia bitterly denounced the decision as unprecedented and said it nullifies the will of most Colorado citizens to deny homosexuals preferential treatment.

The decision, in one of the most important cases the court considered during its 1995-96 term, could have far-reaching implications for gay rights legal battles around the country. Anti-gay initiatives have become a contentious political issue resulting in several court challenges and are expected to be on the ballot in various places in the November elections.

The law was aimed at invalidating gay rights laws in Denver, Boulder and Aspen that barred discrimination in jobs and housing based on sexual orientation. The 1992 measure, adopted by a 53 percent majority in a referendum, declared there was no special legal protection based on a person's "homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation."

Kennedy said the measure does more than deny homosexuals special rights, as the state had claimed. "The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from injuries caused by discrimination and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies," he said.