Catholic University Law Review


Parker Williams


In SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals applied heightened scrutiny to a sexual orientation classification. Through SmithKline, the Ninth Circuit became one of the first federal circuit courts to do so explicitly; and by unequivocally applying a more exacting standard than rational basis, it furthered the framework developed in cases such as Romer v. Evans, Lawrence v. Texas, and United States v. Windsor. This Note asserts that SmithKline is a significant victory for the advancement of LGBT rights, as evidenced by its use to strike down several same-sex marriage bans and in court filings urging that discriminatory laws be ruled unconstitutional. First, this Note summarizes the different levels of judicial scrutiny that federal courts have applied in recent years. It then analyzes the origins of peremptory strikes and the “Batson Challenge.” Next, this Note draws on these foundations to analyze the Ninth Circuit’s decision in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories. This Note concludes by arguing that the Ninth Circuit’s analysis was appropriate and that SmithKline should be used as a framework for other courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to apply heightened scrutiny explicitly to sexual orientation classifications. This Note further argues that sexual orientation should be designated as a quasi-suspect or suspect classification. At its core, this Note endorses the message in SmithKline that sexual orientation does not, and should not, factor into determinations regarding the ability of gay persons to contribute to civic life.