Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)

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Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) was a Supreme Court case that famously inferred that a right to privacy existed within the Constitution, which does not explicitly exist in the document. The case was over a Connecticut law that banned the use of any contraception for married couples which received multiple legal challenges prior to this case. The Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision overruled the law as an invasion of the right to privacy, specifically marital right to privacy. The case played a major role in later Supreme Court cases to expand the right of privacy such as to other uses of contraception, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. 

The majority opinion written by Justice William Douglas reasoned that many inexplicit rights exist within the Constitution that flow from the “emanations” of other explicitly granted protections. By broadly interpreting the first, third, fourth, and fifth amendments, the majority found contraception to be an inexplicit protected right of privacy similarly to the protected right for parents to decide how to raise their children as noted in Meyer v. Nebraska. The majority limited this discussion to the right of privacy within a marriage, arguing that privacy within parts of marriage is an understood right existing long before the Constitution.

A few notable concurrences and dissents existed in the case. Justice Arthur Goldberg argued the ninth amendment gave the court the justification in protecting unenumerated rights like certain rights to privacy. As he does in other opinions, Justice Marshall Harlan II contended that the right to privacy existed as part of substantive due process within the fourteenth amendment. Justices Hugo Black and Potter Stewart both dissented on the grounds that, while personally they found the law to be senseless, they could not find that the Constitution in any way directly created a right to privacy in these circumstances. 

[Last updated in January of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]