Three-Peat: Three Times the Supreme Court Got It Right

Okay, these cases aren’t legally a three-peat sine they aren’t consecutive. But they’re great examples of times the Supreme Court of the United States got it right when the states and voters got it wrong.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the legality of gay marriage later this year, on April 28th. One of the most often repeated arguments on daily newscasts against gay marriage is that, it’s a decision best left to the individual states and voters.

Well, states and voters get it wrong sometimes. Here are three cases illustrating that point. Each case name is linked to more information about it.

Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas 1954)
Most Americans probably, and hopefully, remember this case because it officially ended segregation in the public school system.

Fun Fact: Topeka secondary schools, junior high and high schools, were already desegregated. But elementary schools were still operating under the “separate but equal” rule of law.

This sweeping 9-0 decision not only ended the “separate but equal” rule, it emphatically declared it was wrong. Denying people the right to marry is just as wrong because it sets up a similar dichotomy to separate but equal. Only this time the message is, separate but unequal.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
This case may not be as well known as Brown v. Board of Education but it may be more interesting. Griswold v. Connecticut struck down the last state ban on birth control.

We’re not talking about the morning after pill or anything fancy. Just your ordinary everyday birth control pill, for married couples. That’s right, in 1965 married couples couldn’t get any contraceptives in Connecticut.

Fun Fact: Birth control literature was considered obscene, legally, until 1936.

A statewide ban on birth control may be hard for people of my generation to imagine. But pursuing this fight all the way to the highest court of the land, when it was the last ban standing, should be hard for anyone to imagine.

Fortunately this ruling established our right to privacy, a right that’s not specifically spelled out in our Constitution. And it’s this concept of privacy that paved the way for the case below.

Lawrence v. Texas
I admit I love this one, y’all. Not only did it start in my state, it started with a bang. Lawrence v. Texas challenged the state’s laws against sodomy, eventually striking them down.

Fun Fact: The police report that started this case turned out to be totally false.

So responding to this false report, police discovered John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner having sex in Lawrence’s Houston apartment and arrested the two men for violating Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct” law.

The reason behind the arrests might have been cloudy but the consequences were very clear. Among them, Lawrence and Garner would have been required to register as sex offenders in some states. And unlike Connecticut’s ban on contraceptives, others states still had laws against sodomy too so it made sense to take this case to the Supreme Court.

Bonus Fun Fact: Some of those laws made certain acts illegal, even if, they were between consenting partners of the opposite sex.

These decisions are interesting in their own right and because they’re closely related to issues debated today. I also know, the COURT isn’t always right.

But here at least, are three times the Supreme Court of the United States made the right decision when the states and voters got it wrong. Well that wraps things up, for now. Who knows maybe there’ll be another case to add to the list soon.

So how do you think the Supreme Court will rule on gay marriage and how will it affect you?


For more information on Brown v. Board of Education visit this link.
For a time line of women’s rights decisions click here.
Here’s a closer look at the fascinating history of the birth control movement.
Here’s theLawrence v. Texas case info again.

© Chic Prune 2015

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4 thoughts on “Three-Peat: Three Times the Supreme Court Got It Right

  1. Just watched “The Imitation Game” the other night…It’s unbelievable how governments have tried to control our sex lives–and how unfortunately some still do. The unfairness of driving a man to suicide who has saved 15,000,000 lives is just another example of how considering the laws and actions of conservative governments has me banging my head against the wall and turning off the nightly news reports of the unfair treatment of women, journalists, religious dissenters and those of any persuasion other than heterosexual. Will our world ever learn to put simple human decency before political and religious agendas and small-mindedness? Or will we blow ourselves up first? Thanks for you summary of some of the positive decisions of the past, Chic. –Judy

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    1. sorry for the late reply judy, family came into town – good times, too much food. alan turing’s story sticks with you. i haven’t seen the movie but i remember an npr story a few years ago that highlighted how his life ended. it amazes me that there are stories celebrating his achievements in WWII but they never mention him after the war. it makes you wonder though, what else stories leave out.

      also surprising is how progressive britain was during the civil rights era when compared to the u.s. i think britain changed the the laws criminalizing “certain acts” sometime in the 60’s. if that’s right, it’s a pretty quick about-face especially when it took the u.s. about three more decades to do the same thing.

      and yes it’s a shame human decency is so often forgotten or taken for granted but i guess that’s just human nature.

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  2. Wonderfully interesting legal highlights, Mac, and yes, timely too. I imagine these battles are not over by a long shot, especially when hearing of certain state courts that plow right ahead and overrule federal decisions. Much of the same is what I see unfolding in our nation’s future. But, and I say this but with immense satisfaction, there is such a push for equality, such a growing faction of people who are slowly becoming educated and moving from a place of ignorance into informed, that I feel certain change is inevitable–for the good of those who are suffering unfairly now. It pains me to see such brutal and unjust treatment of minorities, but it overjoys me to see how many fighters we have who are working toward civil rights.

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    1. i read your comments earlier shelley but wanted to revisit them later so they could sink in. most impressive about this current march towards greater equality is the fact, that it’s peaceful.

      even though it started with riots (the stonewall riots for gay rights and the ferguson riots for greater racial equality) it’s moving in more peaceful, dynamic, and engaging directions. i hope that means the established processes that exist to redress inequality and injustice actually work.

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