46 LGBTQIA+ Rights Groups Urge Supreme Court to Overturn Oregon Ordinances That Criminalize Homelessness

Unhoused at high rates, LGBTQIA+ people face dire threat from such laws, which are cruel and unusual punishment, amicus brief says

April 3, 2024, Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court should rule that ordinances criminalizing homelessness violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, more than forty LGBTQIA+ rights groups argue in an amicus brief submitted today. 

Amid a national homelessness crisis driven by a lack of affordable housing, the Court’s ruling in the case City of Grants Pass v. Johnson will have a profound effect on the rights and wellbeing of the hundreds of thousands of people without shelter in the United States. It will have a disproportionate impact on LGBTQIA+ people because they are unhoused at extremely high rates due to discrimination and bias, the groups who submitted the amicus brief today say. 

“Since a disproportionately high number of unhoused people are from the LGBTQIA+ community, this is an issue of particular importance for the organizations who joined our amicus brief,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We hope the Supreme Court will recognize the dangers posed to all unhoused people by the discriminatory ordinances at stake.”

The amicus brief, submitted by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of 46 groups with operations in 11 states and Washington, D.C, says the ordinances punish people for their status, violating the “constitutional rights of those surviving under the pressing weight of poverty.” The ordinances pose a particular risk to LGBTQIA+ people, as they are more likely than straight, cisgender people to be unhoused, due to systemic causes detailed in the brief: family rejection, lack of safe shelters, and discrimination in schools, employment, and housing. 

Statistics illustrate the disproportionate dangers facing LGBTQIA+ people. For example, transgender people are eight times more likely to have been recently unhoused than their straight, cisgender counterparts. Homelessness is especially prevalent among LGBTQIA+ youth: although they are less than 10 percent of the U.S population, they make up 40 percent of all unhoused youth and 65 percent of youth suffering from chronic homelessness, and LGBTQIA+ youth of color are even more likely to be unhoused.

“Because of discrimination in various forms, including family rejection and employment, educational, and housing discrimination, LGBTQIA+ people face elevated levels of poverty and homelessness,” said Mikaila Hernández, a Bertha Justice Fellow and attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This is especially true for young people, who should be protected, not targeted for arrest.”

The case stems from a lawsuit brought by Gloria Johnson and John Logan, two unhoused residents of Grants Pass, Oregon, who are challenging the constitutionality of five municipal  ordinances that subject involuntarily homeless people to fines, arrest, and jail time. Legislators behind the laws have openly stated that their goal is to force unhoused people out of Grants Pass, a city of 40,000 that has no homeless shelters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the plaintiffs, issuing an injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinances. 

Read the brief and the list of groups who joined it on the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

April 3, 2024