Last edited: January 07, 2005

In Their Own Homes

Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 25, 2003
P. O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125

In September of 1998, police in Houston—responding to a bogus report of an armed intruder—burst into the apartment of John Lawrence, to find him engaged in consensual sex with another man, Tyron Garner.

The two adults were jailed overnight and charged with breaking Texas’ “homosexual conduct law,” which bans oral and anal sex between people of the same gender. The two men pleaded no contest, each paying a $200 fine. Since then, they have resumed a low profile, declining to speak to the press.

But the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund has pursued an ongoing appeal, which will culminate in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“These are people who were arrested in their bedroom,” explains Patricia Logue, an attorney with the Lambda Fund. Ms. Logue and the men’s other attorneys contend Texas law is unconstitutional for two reasons: it authorizes impermissible intrusion into citizens’ private lives, and it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by criminalizing certain behavior only for same-sex couples, not for heterosexuals.

The strongest argument for the state here is indeed the concern about federal intervention in matters best left to local discretion. But that argument would hardly win if the state sought to maintain discretion to, say, segregate lunch counters by sex or race. And certainly the right to be left in peace in one’s home falls under the realm of “civil rights.”

As recently as 1960, every state had a sodomy law. And as recently as 1986, the high court upheld a now-defunct sodomy law in Georgia. But even those who consider the conduct in question to be distasteful or wrong should be able to see the danger in allowing police to jail consenting adults for what they do in the privacy of their own homes.

The court should overturn the sodomy law.

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