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Griswold v. Connecticut
Griswold v. Connecticut
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S. Ct. 1678, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1965), was a landmark Supreme Court decision
that recognized that a married couple has a right of privacy that cannot be infringed upon by a state law making it a crime
to use contraceptives.
Two Connecticut statutes provided that any person who used, or gave information or assistance concerning the use of, contraceptives
was subject to a fine, imprisonment, or both. Estelle T. Griswold, an executive with the state Planned Parenthood League,
and a physician who worked at a league center were arrested for violating these laws, even though they gave such information
to married couples.
They were convicted and fined $100 each. The state appellate courts upheld their convictions and they appealed to the
Supreme Court on the ground that the statutes violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court recognized that the appellants
had standing to raise the issue of the constitutional rights of married couples since they had a professional relationship
with such people.
Addressing the propriety of its review of such legislation, the Court reasoned that although it is loath to determine
the need for state laws affecting social and economic conditions, these statutes directly affected sexual relations between
a married couple and the role of a physician in the medical aspects of such a relationship. Such a relationship is protected
from intrusion by the government under the theory of a right to privacy. This right, while not specifically guaranteed by
the Constitution, exists because it may be reasonably construed from certain amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press implicitly create the right of freedom of association since
one must be allowed to freely associate with others in order to fully enjoy these specific guarantees. The Third Amendment
prohibition against the quartering of soldiers in a private home without the owner's consent is an implicit acknowledgment
of the owner's right to privacy. Both the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fifth
Amendment Self-Incrimination Clause safeguard a person's privacy in his or her home and life against government demands. The
Ninth Amendment states that the enumerated constitutional rights should not be interpreted as denying any other rights retained
by the people.
The Court created the right of privacy from the penumbras of these specific rights, which it deemed created zones of privacy.
The statutory regulation of a marital relationship by the state was an invasion of the constitutional right of a married couple
to privacy in such a relationship, a relationship that historically American law has held sacred. The means by which the state
chose to regulate contraceptives—by outlawing their use, rather than their sale and manufacture—was clearly
unrelated to its goal and would detrimentally affect the marital relationship. The question of enforcement of such statutes
also was roundly criticized since it would mandate government inquiry into "marital bedrooms."
Because of the invalidity of such laws, the Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the state trial and appellate courts
and the convictions of the appellants.
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Griswold v. Connecticut, case decided in 1965 by the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing a right to privacy in striking down
a Connecticut ban on the sale of contraceptives. The Court, through Justice William O. Douglas, found a “zone of
privacy” created by several amendments to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing against governmental intrusion into
the homes and lives of citizens. The Griswold decision was important in later cases, such as Roe v. Wade.
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Griswold versus Connecticut
A 1965 Supreme Court decision that overturned an old Connecticut law (1879) that made it illegal to use or disseminate
information about contraception. The Court found that the law invaded the constitutional right of privacy. (See also Roe versus
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Griswold V. Connecticut
In this 1965 decision, the Supreme Court expanded the constitutional right of privacy. An 1879 Connecticut law forbade
any use of contraception or the assisting of anyone seeking contraception. Under this statute two officers of the Planned
Parenthood League were convicted of providing contraceptive information to married couples. On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned
the convictions, ruling that the law was unconstitutional.
Justice William O. Douglas's majority opinion identified ways in which the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments
to the Constitution provided degrees of privacy. Further, Douglas maintained that married people's right of privacy predated
the Bill of Rights; laws invading this right were unconstitutional on their face. He also raised the specter of police raids
on marital bedrooms for contraception evidence if the law were allowed to stand. A concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg,
joined by Justices Earl Warren and William Brennan, located the right to marital privacy in the rarely invoked Ninth Amendment,
which states that the fact that a particular right is not mentioned in the Constitution does not mean that it can be curtailed
See also Birth Control; Constitution.
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Griswold v. Connecticut
Griswold v. Connecticut
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 29, 1965
Decided June 7, 1965
Full case name: Estelle T. Griswold and C. Lee Buxton v. Connecticut
Citations: 381 U.S. 479 (); 85 S. Ct. 1678; 14 L. Ed. 2d 510; 1965 U.S. LEXIS 2282
Prior history: Defendants convicted, Circuit Court for the Sixth Circuit, 1-2-62; affirmed, Circuit Court, Appellate
Division, 1-7-63; affirmed, 200 A.2d 479 (Conn. 1964)
Subsequent history: None
A Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Connecticut Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Earl Warren
Associate Justices: Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Tom C. Clark, John Marshall Harlan II, William Brennan, Potter Stewart,
Byron White, Arthur Goldberg
Majority by: Douglas
Joined by: Warren, Clark, Brennan, Goldberg
Concurrence by: Goldberg
Joined by: Warren, Brennan
Concurrence by: Harlan
Concurrence by: White
Dissent by: Black
Joined by: Stewart
Dissent by: Stewart
Joined by: Black
U.S. Const. Amend. IX, XIV; Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53-32, 54-196 (rev. 1958)
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), was a landmark case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled
that the Constitution protected a right to privacy. The case involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of contraceptives.
By a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court invalidated the law on the grounds that it violated the "right to marital privacy."
Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy," Justice William O. Douglas (writing for the
majority) ruled that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" of other constitutional protections. Justice Arthur
Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment to defend the Supreme Court's ruling. Justice John
Marshall Harlan II wrote a concurring opinion in which he argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Byron White also wrote a concurrence based on the due process clause.
Two Justices, Hugo Black and Potter Stewart, filed dissents. Black argued that the right to privacy is to be found nowhere
in the Constitution. Furthermore, he criticized the interpretations of the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to which his fellow
Justices adhered. Stewart famously called the Connecticut statute "an uncommonly silly law," but noted that it was
Since Griswold, the Supreme Court has made several further rulings protecting sexual privacy. Most notably, in Roe v.
Wade (1973), the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution protected a right to abortion. For the most part, the Court has
made these later rulings on the basis of Justice Harlan's substantive due process rationale. The Griswold line of cases remains
controversial, and has drawn accusations of "judicial activism."
Griswold v. Connecticut involved a Connecticut law that prohibited the use of "any drug, medicinal article or instrument
for the purpose of preventing conception." Although the law was passed in 1879, the statute was almost never enforced.
Attempts were made to test the constitutionality of the law; however, the challenges had failed on technical grounds.
In Tileston v. Ullman (1943), a doctor challenged the statute on the grounds that a ban on contraception could, in certain
situations, threaten the lives and well-being of his patients. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the grounds that
the plaintiff lacked standing to sue on behalf of his patients. A second challenge to the Connecticut law was brought by a
doctor as well as his patients in Poe v. Ullman (1961). However, the Supreme Court again voted to dismiss the appeal, on the
grounds that the case was not ripe. It held that, because the plaintiffs had not been charged or threatened with prosecution,
there was no actual controversy for the judiciary to resolve. Thus, the Connecticut statute had evaded judicial review until
Griswold v. Connecticut.
In Poe, Justice John Marshall Harlan II filed one of the most cited dissenting opinions in Supreme Court history. He argued,
firstly, that the Supreme Court should have heard the case rather than dismissing it. Thereafter, he indicated his support
for a broad interpretation of the due process clause. He famously wrote, "the full scope of the liberty guaranteed by
the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in
the Constitution. This 'liberty' is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom
of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and
so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and
purposeless restraints." On the basis of this interpretation of the due process clause, Harlan concluded that the Connecticut
statute violated the Constitution.
Shortly after the Poe decision was handed down, Estelle Griswold (Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood League
of Connecticut) and Dr. C. Lee Buxton (a physician and professor at the Yale School of Medicine) opened a birth control clinic
in New Haven, Connecticut, in order to test the contraception law once again. Shortly after the clinic was opened, Griswold
and Buxton were arrested, tried, found guilty, and fined $100 each. The conviction was upheld by the Appellate Division of
the Circuit Court, and by the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors. Griswold then appealed her conviction to the Supreme Court
of the United States.
The Court's decision
Estelle Griswold, in front of the New Haven, Connecticut Planned Parenthood
Estelle Griswold, in front of the New Haven, Connecticut Planned Parenthood
The Supreme Court overturned Griswold's conviction and invalidated the Connecticut law. The majority opinion, authored
by William O. Douglas, joined by Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Justices Tom C. Clark, William J. Brennan, Jr., and Arthur
J. Goldberg famously argued that the Bill of Rights protected a "right of privacy" contained in the "penumbras"
of the first eight amendments to the Bill of Rights, as well as the Ninth Amendment:
"The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations
from those guarantees that help give them life and substance (citation omitted). Various guarantees create zones of privacy.
... The Ninth Amendment provides: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to
deny or disparage others retained by the people."
The Court limited its analysis to married couples.
A concurring opinion by Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, joined by Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William J. Brennan,
Jr. argued that the existence of the "right of privacy" was bolstered by the Ninth Amendment's protection of unenumerated
rights. Justice Goldberg wrote:
Since 1791 [the Ninth Amendment] has been a basic part of the Constitution which we are sworn to uphold. To hold that
a right so basic and fundamental and so deep-rooted in our society as the right of privacy in marriage may be infringed because
that right is not guaranteed in so many words by the first eight amendments to the Constitution is to ignore the Ninth Amendment
and to give it no effect whatsoever.
Justices John Marshall Harlan II and Byron White concurred in the judgment invalidating the Connecticut law, but based
their opinions relying on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Harlan, in particular, urged that the Due Process
Clause protected liberties unenumerated in the first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights. White's opinion argued that the
Connecticut law served no coherent purpose.
Black and Stewart's dissents
Justices Potter Stewart and Hugo Black dissented, denying the existence of any constitutional provisions protecting the
"right of privacy," and fearing the consequences of a departure from the Constitution's text. Both justices noted
that the "right of privacy" had generally been held to inhere in the Fourth Amendment (and was thus limited textually
to the language of that amendment), not the Bill of Rights generally. Stewart wrote:
In the course of its opinion, the Court refers to no less than six amendments to the constitution: the first, the
third, the fourth, the fifth, the ninth and the fourteenth. But the court does not say which of these Amendments, if any,
it thinks are infringed by this law.
The Ninth Amendment ... [was intended] to make clear that the adoption of the Bill of Rights did not alter the plan
that the Federal Government was to be a government of express and limited powers, and that all rights and powers not delegated
to it were retained by the people and the individual States. Until today no member of this Court has ever suggested that the
Ninth Amendment meant anything else.
Stewart also stated that, though he believed the Connecticut law was an "uncommonly silly one" (language later
quoted by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in Lawrence v. Texas), he did not believe it in his power under the Constitution
to invalidate it, noting that:
We are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine. We are asked to hold that
it violates the United States Constitution. And that, I cannot do.
The Court talks about a constitutional "right of privacy" as though there is some constitutional provision
or provisions forbidding any law ever to be passed which might abridge the "privacy" of individuals. But there is
[F]or a period of a century and a half, no serious suggestion was ever made that the Ninth Amendment, enacted to protect
state powers against Federal invasion, could be used as a weapon of Federal power to prevent state legislatures from passing
laws they consider appropriate to govern local affairs.
Later decisions by the Court extended the principles of Griswold beyond its particular facts. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405
U.S. 438 (1972) struck down a Massachusetts law barring the sale of contraceptives to unmarried couples and thus extended
the "right of privacy" to all procreative decisions. The reasoning and language of both Griswold and Eisenstadt
were cited in support of the Court's result in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), which extended the "right of privacy"
to cover abortion. The highly controversial Roe would be limited in later cases, such as Maher v. Roe (1977) and Planned Parenthood
v. Casey (1992), but its "central holding" has remained intact. Lawrence v. Texas (2003) struck a state sodomy law
by upholding a broadly defined right to private, consensual, intimate adult contact. Lawrence expressly placed itself in the
Griswold line of cases, though it did not use the "right of privacy" language.
* Sex-related court cases
* Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) (full text with links to cited material)
* Findlaw Full Text of Case
* Audio of Griswold oral arguments from Oyez
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Griswold v. Connecticut is mentioned in the following topics:
New York v. Onofre Griswold
Lochner era privacy, right of (in law)
Counterintelligence Field Activity Eisenstadt v. Baird
Potter Stewart Arthur Goldberg
Bowers v. Hardwick List of court cases involving the American Civil Liberties Union
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