Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Colman on Samuel Warren's Gay Brother and the Right to Privacy

Charles E. Colman, an acting assistant professor at NYU Law who will be joining the University of Hawaiʻi’s  law faculty this summer, has posted About Ned, which is to appear in the Harvard Law Review 129 (2016): 128-52:
In this essay, I explore the possibility that the storied article "The Right to Privacy," 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890), might have come into existence in part because of lead author Sam Warren's powerful drive to protect his younger siblings -- and, in particular, his gay brother Ned. For reasons both obvious and less intuitive, Sam might have viewed the article as a promising vehicle for shielding Ned and the rest of the Warren family from potentially devastating journalistic and public scrutiny of Ned's sexuality.

Viewed in this light, the article acquires a special resonance in this, its one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary. Rhetoric central to the piece can be traced, link by link, case by case, to Supreme Court decisions that collectively established a multifaceted constitutional right to personal autonomy. The article can arguably be understood as a catalyst for the series of events culminating in the Supreme Court's 2015 recognition, in Obergefell v. Hodges, of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

If "The Right to Privacy" is indeed about Ned, even in part, then what originated as an effort to protect one gay man might, quite remarkably, be a 125-year-old precursor of the Court's decision securing the protection of a fundamental right for gay people throughout the nation.

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