Fighting anti-LGBT legislation and amendments has been a cornerstone of Lambda Legal’s work since the early 1980s. At the time, Lambda Legal published the first major study on antigay legislative proposals and warned about “the new right’s specific concern with preventing the achievement of any legal or political gains for gay people.” In the 1990s, Lambda Legal helped derail broad-based attempts to prohibit antidiscrimination legislation covering LGBT people, culminating in Romer v. Evans, a landmark victory before the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, much of the focus has shifted to legislation and amendments that deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Lambda Legal continues to lead the way in challenging and limiting these and other attacks on LGBT people.
In recent years, antigay conservatives have attempted to use gay and lesbian couples as a political wedge by promoting ballot initiatives and referenda intended to prohibit marriage equality or other relationship recognition of same-sex couples. Since 1998, about half the states have taken the extraordinary step of amending their state constitutions to limit recognition of same-sex couples in some way. To date, voters in Arizona are the only ones who have rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have denied marriage equality to same-sex couples. In nearly three-fourths of states, legislatures have enacted some form of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) or state law that limits recognition of same-sex couples.
Lambda Legal's Impact
Working with the ACLU and the Colorado Legal Initiatives Project, Lambda Legal helped secure one of the movement's most important LGBT legal victories. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, struck down a Colorado ballot initiative prohibiting all branches of state government from passing legislation or adopting policies prohibiting discrimination against lesbians and gay men. The ruling paved the way for Lambda Legal to challenge and defeat similar antigay measures. It also provides a legal foundation for winning equal protection for LGBT people across the country, including in our challenges to measures limiting recognition of same-sex couples.