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Gay Rights, Thick and Thin

Toni M. Massaro
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Nov., 1996), pp. 45-110
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229372
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229372
Page Count: 66
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Gay Rights, Thick and Thin
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Abstract

In this article, Professor Massaro observes that constitutional bases for gay rights have rested primarily on "thick" doctrine-First Amendment, privacy, and equal protection caselaw-in an effort to secure strict scrutiny of antigay measures. Although attractive in some respects, these arguments pose significant risks of double-binds and boomerangs in the long run, even if they yield short-term legal victories. Moreover, "thick" arguments are sufficiently porous to support judges' chilly responses to gay rights-responses that cannot be explained by inexorable doctrinal logic, but instead arise from hostility toward homosexuality in particular, and ignorance about sexuality in general. Thus, Professor Massaro argues for invoking "thin" doctrine-rational basis analysis- to expose these underlying factors. "Thin" doctrine directs judicial attention away from distracting doctrinal complexities and toward the central issue: "What is wrong with homosexuality?" Thin doctrine answers this question by posing fewer risks of double-binds, avoiding attempts to define homosexuality, and requiring minimal revision of the existing doctrinal structure. Finally, responses to this question are framed by consulting emerging interdisciplinary work that grapples with the unreason of Bowers v. Hardwick. The recent decision of Evans v. Romer is an important illustration of how thin doctrine can succeed where more ornate legal theories fail.

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