Jenner & Block

Jenner & Block Partner Paul M. Smith Discusses the 40-year History of Marriage Equality Cases

In this video excerpt, Jenner & Block partner Paul M. Smith recalls the long history of more than 40 years of “step-by-step” efforts toward marriage equality, resulting in the Obergefell v. Hodges case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Beginning in 1971 when Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. announced that it would not hire a known homosexual, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Nelson — in a five-page opinion without dissent — that the Constitution does not protect “a fundamental right” for same-sex couples to get married. It would be 14 years after Baker v. Nelson before the Supreme Court would issue a major ruling on gay rights — in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, upholding a Georgia law that made it a crime for adult gay couples to engage in homosexual acts in private; that decision was overruled in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas, when the Court first recognized a constitutional right of privacy for homosexual acts between consenting adults.

Mr. Smith successfully argued that landmark gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas in front of the high court.

The video is an excerpt from Mr. Smith’s comments last week at the American Constitutional Society’s briefing on marriage equality cases.

A partner and Chair of Jenner & Block’s Appellate and Supreme Court Practice, Mr. Smith has had an active Supreme Court practice for three decades involving matters ranging from free speech and civil rights to civil procedure. His important victories have also included Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n, establishing the First Amendment rights of those who produce and sell video games.