The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) seeks to end privileged places in law based on sexual orientation. The first Justice Harlan, dissenting in Plessy v. Ferguson, stated that we do not have classes of citizens in our Constitution. But of course we do. We eventually recognize those classes and then seek to dismantle laws reinforcing those distinctions. As Justice Ginsburg explained in United States v. Virginia, “the history of our Constitution . . . is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.” Some people—most notably African-Americans and women—have had the opportunity to challenge laws and practices denying the Constitution’s promises of equality and liberty, and in so doing created the legal and cultural architecture of civil rights. We are now grappling with another group of Americans—gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans—who are asking this country to live up to its foundational constitutional promises of “liberty and justice for all,” and to provide formal equality under the law without regard to whether one has a same-sex or different-sex sexual orientation. . . .
For more information about Ms. Bonauto’s Donahue Lecture (which served as the basis for this article) please click here.