High court will decide if states have an interest in
what goes on in bedrooms.
World-Herald, March 30, 2003
World Herald Square, Omaha, NE 68102
Fax: 402-345-4547, Email: email@example.com
What, if any, compelling interest does Texas have that
justifies its law criminalizing the conduct of consenting adults in the
privacy of a bedroom?
The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to decide whether a
prosecutor answered that question, or whether the answer is: none.
At the heart of the matter is a disagreement among
Americans over homosexual conduct. Some people disapprove on moral grounds,
even if that conduct is private, and 13 states have codified laws backing up
their concept of morality. Other people argue that no government, state or
national, should stick its laws into the private conduct of consenting adults.
And still others see the Texas law and others like it as
a club that allows—even encourages—continued discrimination against
homosexuals by employers, landlords and others. Their argument contends that
if the private conduct of homosexuals is illegal, then employers and others
feel they are entitled to deny jobs or housing to people who commit these
particular illegal acts.
Whatever its decision, the Supreme Court won’t wash
away the hatred some people direct against gays and lesbians. But it should
extract government from the middle of intensely personal relationships.
Charles A. Rosenthal Jr., the Houston prosecutor who
argued in favor of the law Wednesday in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, told
the court why his state belongs in its citizens’ homes and their bedrooms:
“Texas has a right to set moral standards.”
But Justice Stephen Breyer countered him: If that were
the standard, he said, a state could criminalize telling lies at the dinner
table, cheating or being rude. “The hard question here is,” he said,
“can the state pass anything it wants because the state thinks it’s
immoral? If you’re going to draw a line anywhere, it might start with a line
at the bedroom door.”
A Supreme Court decision tossing out these intrusive laws
that mandate the majority’s notion of acceptable behavior shouldn’t weigh
in as either pro- or anti-homosexual rights.
Rather, it should uphold a long-standing, very American
principle: The government should not regulate conduct that causes no harm to
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