Last edited: April 23, 2007


Lawrence & Garner v. State of Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that sodomy laws are unconstitutional on June 26, 2003.

The majority opinion is based on privacy rights and is written by Kennedy, joined by Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg, and Stephens. O'Connor concurred on equal protection grounds.

The Decision

In Lawrence vs. Texas, two gay men say the state of Texas deprived them of privacy rights and equal protection under the law when they were arrested in 1998 for having sex in a Houston home.

A neighbor had reported a "weapons disturbance" at the home of John G. Lawrence, and when police arrived they only found two men having sex. Lawrence and another man, Tyron Garner, were held overnight in jail and later fined $200 each for violating the state’s Homosexual Conduct law. The neighbor was later convicted of filing a false police report.

All sodomy laws in the US are now unconstitutional and unenforceable when applied to non-commercial consenting adults in private.

Quotes on Gay Sex Ban Ruling

Associated Press, June 26, 2003

Quotes on the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday striking down state bans on gay sex:

“When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the state, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.”
—Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court majority.

“Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.”
—Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent.

“A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state’s moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause, under any standard of review.”
—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, agreeing with the majority.

 “Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means. Social perceptions of sexual and other morality change over time, and every group has the right to persuade its fellow citizens that its view of such matters is the best ... But persuading one’s fellow citizens is one thing, and imposing one’s views in absence of democratic majority will is something else.”

 “This is a giant leap forward to a day where we are no longer branded as criminals.”
—Ruth Harlow, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case and legal director at Lambda Legal.

 “If the people have no right to regulate sexuality then ultimately the institution of marriage is in peril, and with it, the welfare of the coming generations of children.”
—Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family.

 “We still have a long way to go in achieving full equality, but the court’s recognition that all women and men, regardless of their sexuality, have a constitutional right to privacy is a huge step forward.”
—National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy.

 “It is my opinion that this decision represents a paradigm shift from the court’s previous decisions in holding that homosexual acts are protected liberty interests and that the Texas Legislature has no rational basis to forbid those acts.

I am disappointed that the Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of the reversal did not allow the people of the state of Texas, through their elected legislators, to determine moral standards of governance for this state.”
—Charles Rosenthal, a lawyer who argued the case for Texas.

 “This ruling opens the door for new advances toward full equality and should be viewed as a challenge to legislators to help pass important legal protections for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) Americans—like employment nondiscrimination laws and comprehensive hate crimes legislation.”
—Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.

 “Today’s Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law against homosexual sodomy is a defeat for public morality and America’s families. This ill-conceived decision will have serious repercussions upon public health and welfare in Texas and other states that still criminalize sodomy.”
—Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of Traditional Values Coalition.

 “We are all safer today because the court reaffirmed the principle that bigotry and fear may not be the basis for criminalizing private consensual conduct. Recognizing that Americans are entitled to respect for their private lives, the decision is a ringing endorsement of the principles of individual liberty and freedom from discrimination and bigotry.”
—Glen A. Tobias, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.

 “Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources. Notwithstanding this, I recognize that as a member of this court I am not empowered to help petitioners and others similarly situated.”
—Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in a dissent that he would vote to repeal the anti-sodomy law if he were a member of the Texas Legislature.


Sen. Rick Santorum's idiotic statements



Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

Amicus briefs in favor of repeal:

  • Constitutional Law Professors, Bruce Ackerman, et al.
  • American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas
  • Mary Robinson, et al.
  • American Psychological Association, et al.
  • Human Rights Campaign, et al.
  • Republican Unity Coalition and Alan K. Simpson
  • Professors of History, George Chauncey, et al.
  • Alliance of Baptists, et al.
  • Cato Institute
  • National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, et al.
  • NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Log Cabin Republicans and Liberty Education Reform
  • American Public Health Association, et al.
  • American Bar Association
  • Institute for Justice


State of Texas

Amicus briefs opposed to repeal:

  • Agudath Israel of America

  • Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah

  • American Center for Law and Justice

  • American Family Association, Inc.

  • Center for Arizona Policy and Pro-Family Network

  • Center for Law and Justice International

  • Center for Marriage Law

  • Center for the Original Intent of the Constitution

  • Concerned Women for America

  • First Principles, Inc.

  • Liberty Counsel

  • Public Advocate of United States, et al.

  • Texas Eagle Forum, et al.

  • Texas Legislators, et al.

  • Texas Physicians Resource Council, et al.

Additionally, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, two notorious hate groups, claim to have filed an amicus brief, but the Supreme Court does not list it as having been filed. It is here Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

The case is number 02-102, and can be tracked on the Court’s web page—

Case Law

United States v. Kenneth M. Bullock, Decision of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals narrowly reversing a conviction for consensual sodomy under UCMJ Art. 125 on Lawrence v. Texas grounds. - November 30, 2004

Lawrence and Garner v. Texas (June 8, 2000)
Majority opinion in PDF format from Lambda Legal:
Desenting opinion in PDF format from Lambda Legal:

Texas Statute

Sec. 21.01. Definitions.

In this chapter:

(1) "Deviate sexual intercourse" means:

(A) any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person; or

(B) the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another person with an object.

(2) "Sexual contact" means any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

(3) "Sexual intercourse" means any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 373, ch. 168, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 27, 1979; Acts 1981, 67th Leg., p. 203, ch. 96, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1981; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

Sec. 21.06. Homosexual Conduct.

(a) A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.

The sodomy law map prior to Lawrence v. Texas. All states are now white, ie the sodomy laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, some states still attempt to enforce their laws. See Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Carolina. The U.S. Military enforces its sodomy regulation without regard to Lawrence.

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