Bedroom Privacy and Big Brother

I read Edwin Yoder's article "Look Who's Behind the Bedroom Door" (Commentary, April 28) with great interest. Yoder correctly points out that if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the logical consequence will be to undermine or destroy that aspect of the right of privacy which has, since the court's decision in Griswold vs. Connecticut in the early 1960s, prevented states from prohibiting the use of contraceptives.

He is concerned, somewhat belatedly, that if the court overrules Roe, "Big Brother (will be) poised to return to bedroom inspection with a vengeance."

Sadly, the court has already opened bedroom doors for Big Brother. Eight years ago, the court permitted bedroom inspections in Bowers vs. Hardwick. In that case, the court said the right to privacy does not prevent states from making specific sexual acts criminal, even when they occur between consenting adults behind the closed doors of their own homes. In that case laws making private sodomy a criminal offense were at issue, and Yoder was untroubled because he apparently believed the decision was confined to homosexual sodomy, and did not reach heterosexual sodomy.

The majority's reasoning in Hardwick, however, was much broader, and created tension with Griswold, which hundreds of commentators have noted. Hardwick was the first case to erode the right to privacy, but, as lesbians and gay men have consistently warned, it will not be the last. The reason their protests were ignored is that it was thought to apply only to "them" and not to "us." But the right to privacy, like other rights in the Constitution, does not depend on sexual orientation. Rights belong to all Americans or they belong to none.

Hardwick was a warning sign that went unheeded. Roe will certainly be next. And by the time Griswold falls, all Americans will understand why lesbians and gay men were outraged by Hardwick. As Yoder points out, the state has no business in a bedroom.


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