New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers


About Ned

Document Type



129 Harv. L. Rev. F. 128 (2016)


In this essay, I explore the possibility that the storied article "The Right to Privacy," 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890), might have come into existence in part because of lead author Sam Warren's powerful drive to protect his younger siblings -- and, in particular, his gay brother Ned. For reasons both obvious and less intuitive, Sam might have viewed the article as a promising vehicle for shielding Ned and the rest of the Warren family from potentially devastating journalistic and public scrutiny of Ned's sexuality.

Viewed in this light, the article acquires a special resonance in this, its one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary. Rhetoric central to the piece can be traced, link by link, case by case, to Supreme Court decisions that collectively established a multifaceted constitutional right to personal autonomy. The article can arguably be understood as a catalyst for the series of events culminating in the Supreme Court's 2015 recognition, in Obergefell v. Hodges, of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

If "The Right to Privacy" is indeed about Ned, even in part, then what originated as an effort to protect one gay man might, quite remarkably, be a 125-year-old precursor of the Court's decision securing the protection of a fundamental right for gay people throughout the nation.

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essay, legal, history, right, privacy, gay, Obergefell, marriage, equality, Warren, Brandeis