Bowers v. Hardwick
478 U.S. 186 (1986)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986)

Bowers v. Hardwick

No. 85-140

Argued March 31, 1986

Decided June 30, 1986

478 U.S. 186

Syllabus

After being charged with violating the Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy by committing that act with another adult male in the bedroom of his home, respondent Hardwick (respondent) 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 Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the Georgia statute violated respondent's fundamental rights.

Held: The Georgia statute is constitutional. Pp. 478 U. S. 190-196.

(a) The Constitution does not confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy. None of the fundamental rights announced in this Court's prior cases involving family relationships, marriage, or procreation bear any resemblance to the right asserted in this case. And any claim that those cases stand for the proposition that any kind of private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state proscription is unsupportable. Pp. 478 U. S. 190-191.

(b) Against a background in which many States have criminalized sodomy and still do, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" is, at best, facetious. Pp. 478 U. S. 191-194.

(c) There should be great resistance to expand the reach of the Due Process Clauses to cover new fundamental rights. Otherwise, the Judiciary necessarily would take upon itself further authority to govern the country without constitutional authority. The claimed right in this case falls far short of overcoming this resistance. Pp. 478 U. S. 194-195.

(d) The fact that homosexual conduct occurs in the privacy of the home does not affect the result. Stanley v. Georgia,394 U. S. 557, distinguished. Pp. 478 U. S. 195-196.

(e) Sodomy laws should not be invalidated on the asserted basis that majority belief that sodomy is immoral is an inadequate rationale to support the laws. P. 478 U. S. 196.

760 F.2d 1202, reversed.

Page 478 U. S. 187

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., post, p. 478 U. S. 196, and POWELL, J., post, p. 478 U. S. 197, filed concurring opinions. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 478 U. S. 199. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 478 U. S. 214.

Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.

Primary Holding

Later overruled by Lawrence v. Texas, this decision found that the Fourteenth Amendment does not prevent a state from criminalizing private sexual conduct involving same-sex couples.