It’s no secret the anniversary of Roe v. Wade holds a special place in the hearts of women’s rights advocates. But this anniversary has special meaning for advocates in other equality movements that have directly benefited from the principles set forth in Roe. This is especially true for those of us who advocate for the full recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.
Roe is part of a line of reproductive rights cases that have strengthened the foundation of the LGBT rights movement. First, there was Griswold, the groundbreaking case that established that married couples have the right to use contraceptives without interference from the state. This was the first case to set forth the limits of governmental intrusion into people’s private sex lives. Then there was Eisenstadt, a case where the Supreme Court declared that unmarried couples have the same right as married couples to obtain and use contraceptives. Roe followed Griswold and Eisenstadt, powerfully affirming the principles that all people have the right to decide whether or not to procreate and that this right was guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. And in doing so, Roe helped build the foundation for the argument that all individuals have the right to decide how and when to engage in adult consensual sexual activity—an argument that led the Supreme Court in Lawrence to decide that gay people have the same constitutional right to sexual intimacy as their heterosexual counterparts and thus could no longer be treated like criminals (prior to Lawrence, states were allowed to enforce laws that criminalized homosexual behavior).
This victory in Lawrence marked a major shift in the tide of LGBT equality. The decriminalization of homosexual behavior removed a major obstacle for the LGBT rights movement. As such, the principles in Roe helped pave the way for more widespread advances in LGBT rights, including LGBT hate crimes legislation, hospital visitation rights, state and local employment nondiscrimination laws, and most recently the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
So this week, when celebrating the 39th anniversary of Roe, I will be remembering the far-reaching effects that this decision has had on women's equality and LGBT equality. And I will be celebrating the impact Roe has had on my rights to make decisions about my body and my rights to legally express my sexuality without oppression.
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