Strangers to the Law

Gay People on Trial
Lisa Keen and Suzanne B. Goldberg
Describes the legal challenge to the Colorado anti-gay civil rights initiative


In 1992, the voters of Colorado passed a ballot initiative amending the state constitution to prevent the state or any local government from adopting any law or policy that protected a person with a homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation from discrimination. This amendment was immediately challenged in the courts as a denial of equal protection of the laws under the United States Constitution. This litigation ultimately led to a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court invalidating the Colorado ballot initiative. Suzanne Goldberg, an attorney involved in the case from the beginning on behalf of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Lisa Keen, a journalist who covered the initiative campaign and litigation, tell the story of this case, providing an inside view of this complex and important litigation.

Starting with the background of the initiative, the authors tell us about the debates over strategy, the court proceedings, and the impact of each stage of the litigation on the parties involved. The authors explore the meaning of legal protection for gay people and the arguments for and against the Colorado initiative.

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the development of civil rights protections for gay people and the evolution of what it means to be gay in contemporary American society and politics. In addition, it is a rich story well told, and will be of interest to the general reader and scholars working on issues of civil rights, majority-minority relations, and the meaning of equal rights in a democratic society.

Suzanne Goldberg is an attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Lisa Keen is Senior Editor at the Washington Blade newspaper.

Praise / Awards

  • "By bringing the reader to the center of the Amendment 2 challenge, the work provides the means for understanding the Supreme Court's majority and dissenting opinions, which are published in the appendix. The opinions exemplify the enormous distance in thought between those supporting and opposing equal rights for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Because it is both easy to read and appropriately technical, this is a book for constitutional scholars, as well as students who have never before read a Supreme Court opinion. It is an important work that should serve as a source of inspiration for students of gay, lesbian, and bisexual history, especially those interested in law and the United States Constitution. Keen and Goldberg remind us how the Constitution protects minority rights against the will of the majority. More importantly, they show us how constitutional legal challenges like the challenge to Amendment 2 can bring about substantial positive change for society as a whole."
    —Peter Kearns, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, San Francisco, Journal of the History of Sexuality, January-April 2000
  • "Together [Keen and Goldberg] paint a picture of the mix of strategy and personality, insight and accident, near misses and lucky breaks that will ring true to any litigator."
  • "The book is a great story and it lays out all the arguments, legal, social and scientific, surrounding the question of gay and lesbian rights in the United States. The law and legal process are clearly and simply explained for the reader's understanding and the presentation of the evidence is placed in the context of the legal argument being made."
    —Kate Greene, University of Southern Mississippi, Law and Politics Book Review, April 2000
  • "Though the authors are hardly neutrals in the Kulturkampf between homosexuals and the religious right, they display admirable emotional restraint and objectivity in recounting the case."
    New York Times Book Review

News, Reviews, Interviews

Review Law and Politics Book Review | 4/1/2000

Product Details

  • 288 pages.
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  • 2010
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  • 978-0-472-02276-2

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