In contrast to Bowers v. Hardwick, Romer v. Evans was considered a big victory for gay rights. In 1992, Colorado voters had approved Amendment 2, which prohibited or preempted any law or policy “whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitled any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preference, protected status or claim of discrimination” In other words, the law banned any Colorado municipality from passing an sexual orientation anti-discrimination law.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in 1996 that Amendment 2 violated homosexuals equal protection rights in Colorado. Applying the rational basis test, which requires that a policy or law discriminating against a specific non-protected class have a rational relationship to a legitimate public interest, the court determined that a “desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate government interest.” The Court noted that Amendment 2 identified homosexuals by name and denied them equal protection across the board. “[It’s] shear breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class it affects,” said the Court. The Court’s decision in Evans seemed to indicate the Court would accept some equal protection rights for homosexuals, though it certainly did not offer the same protection to sexual orientation discrimination as it would to race or sex.