Bowers v. Hardwick Case Brief

Why is the case important?

The Respondent, Hardwick (Respondent), was convicted of violating Georgia’s sodomy statute by committing that act with another male in the Respondent’s home. The Respondent challenged the statute’s constitutionality insofar as it criminalized consensual sodomy.

Facts of the case

Michael Hardwick was observed by a Georgia police officer while engaging in the act of consensual homosexual sodomy with another adult in the bedroom of his home. After being charged with violating a Georgia statute that criminalized sodomy, Hardwick challenged the statute’s constitutionality in Federal District Court. Following a ruling that Hardwick failed to state a claim, the court dismissed. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia’s statute was unconstitutional. Georgia’s Attorney General, Michael J. Bowers, appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted certiorari.


Is there a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy?


No. Appeals Court ruling reversed.
Justice Byron White (J. White) argues that the nexus between sex and family, marriage, and procreation found in the previous sexual liberty cases before the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court) is lacking in the instance of homosexual conduct.
Furthermore, there is a lengthy history of Anglo-American law criminalizing sodomy. While J. White does not assert whether sodomy laws are wise or even desirable, he asserts that it is not the courts’ place to make that decision, rather it is the States’.


The engagement in homosexual sodomy is not protected by the Constitution through a fundamental right. The court of appeals held that § 16-6-2 violated respondent’s fundamental rights because his homosexual activity was a private and intimate association that was beyond the reach of state regulation by reason of U.S. Const. amends. XI and XIV . Reversing that judgment, the Court held that the Due Process Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV did not confer any fundamental right on homosexuals to engage in acts of consensual sodomy, even if the conduct occurred in the privacy of their own homes.

  • Case Brief: 1986
  • Petitioner: Bowers
  • Respondent: Hardwick
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 478 US 186 (1986)
Argued: Mar 31, 1986
Decided: Jun 30, 1986