Department or Program



Over the past five years, a multitude of cases that have made their ways through the U.S. judicial system dealing with the question of how to adjudicate laws discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation. The common theme among them is a reliance on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which states that no State may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” While discrimination of individuals on their sexual orientation would appear to violate it, the way that the courts have interpreted the Equal Protection Clause has posed many problems in achieving both a clear legal doctrine and a wider expansion of gay rights. Given these issues, this thesis seeks to remedy the constitutional quandary of how the courts should interpret laws discriminating against sexual orientation by finding an alternative constitutional justification for overturning said discrimination. The theory that I advance focuses instead on the well-established right to intimate association, which derives from analysis of the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly and the 14th Amendment right to substantive due process. This right states that the government cannot, without a compelling and narrowly tailored purpose, infringe upon the right of individuals to form and cultivate meaningful intimate relationships. My goal in writing this thesis is to articulate a theory that can provide a clear model for how courts should interpret sexual orientation discrimination in future cases.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Baughman, John

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2014

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.