The Case: U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the immigration of gays and lesbians
Date: Decided on May 22, 1967
Significance: Based on congressional intent combined with commonly accepted psychiatric ideas of the time, the Supreme Court approved the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s policy of classifying gays and lesbians as ineligible for immigration.
Clive Michael Boutilier was a Canadian citizen who lived in the United States with his parents for several years. When he applied for citizenship in 1963, he admitted to an official of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that he had been arrested in 1959 on the charge of sodomy. Subsequently, at the request of the INS, he revealed in an affidavit that he had participated in homosexual encounters since the age of fourteen. Based on his affidavit, the Public Health Service classified him as a “psychopathic personality, sexual deviate.” In pursuance of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which barred entry of persons “afflicted with psychopathic personality,” the INS instituted deportation proceedings. After his appeal was rejected by the court of appeals, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
By a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the INS decision to deport Boutilier. Writing for the majority, Justice Tom C. Clark observed that “Congress has plenary power to make rules for the admission of aliens and to exclude those who possess those characteristics which Congress has forbidden.” Following an analysis of the 1952 law, he concluded:
The legislative history of the Act indicates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the congress intended the phrase “psychopathic personality” to include homosexuals such as petitioner.
In a long and forceful dissent, Justice William O. Douglas presented evidence that many psychologists and psychiatrists disagreed with the notion that homosexuality was pathological or incompatible with good citizenship.
Thomas Tandy Lewis
See also: Constitution, U.S.; Gay and lesbian immigrants; Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952; Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S.; Immigration law; “Moral turpitude”; Naturalization; Supreme Court, U.S.