Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Overturned Supreme Court Cases

Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)

In this 1986 case, the Supreme Court upheld a Georgia anti-sodomy law that forbade oral or anal sex between consenting adults -- regardless of the sexual orientation of either party. Through unusual circumstances, Michael Hardwick was seen engaging in oral sex with another man in his own bedroom by a police officer, and was arrested. Although the state declined to prosecute, the American Civil Liberties Union took up the case to test the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws, and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court.

Homophobia clearly marked the Court's decision to uphold the law. The majority declared that homosexual sodomy was traditionally considered an abominable and illegal practice, specifically ruling that the Constitution didn't provide any inherent right to practice homosexual activity. Although the law in question covered both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy, the majority made it clear that the homosexual nature of the act was the key issue.

In 2003, the Supreme Court decided the case of Lawrence v. Texas by rejecting Texas's anti-sodomy law, essentially declaring that the Bowers decision was incorrect. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion stated, "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled." The dissent also specifically noted that the court was going against stare decisis by overturning Bowers.