Last edited: February 14, 2005

Filings Support Gay Couple in Sodomy Case / Network, January 16, 2003

By Ann Rostow

SUMMARY: The U.S. Supreme Court received an avalanche of arguments in support of the two Houston men challenging the Texas sodomy law.

The U.S. Supreme Court received an avalanche of arguments on Thursday in support of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, the two Houston men challenging the Texas sodomy law.

In addition to the brief of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, counsel for the two men, 14 friend-of-the-court briefs were filed, many of which took on specific aspects of the case against Texas, in addition to other core arguments.

The National Organization for Women led the charge on the link between sex discrimination, and the discrimination inherent in the same-sex-only ban on consensual adult private intimacy in the Lone Star State. The American Civil Liberties Union examined the history of sodomy laws, and the complex background of the American commitment to privacy.

A group of international organizations looked at policies in other countries, and the reasoning that has discredited such laws outside the United States. Historians, led by George Chauncey of the University of Chicago, described the original objectives of sodomy laws, and how they have mutated into instruments of anti-gay discrimination.

The Republican Unity Coalition, arguing the state of Texas cannot rely on morality alone to target an unpopular group, noted that while sodomy laws themselves may be steeped in "tradition," laws that outlaw homosexual sex only are a modern invention.

The list went on. The case for privacy rights and the sanctity of home was outlined by the CATO Institute, while the libertarian Institute for Justice agreed, telling the government to butt out of the bedroom. The American Public Health Association and other health groups debunked the idea that gays are mentally ill or that sodomy laws have a connection to AIDS prevention. And a group of nearly 30 religious leaders and institutions argued that many of the faith-based groups that disapprove of homosexuality still staunchly defend the constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection of every American, gay or straight.

The American Bar Association weighed in with a range of arguments, including the impact of sodomy laws on gays in the legal profession. Although they didn't mention this particular incident, it was just a few days ago when a Virginia state legislator sounded the alarm over a lesbian circuit court judge, who is up for a normally routine reappointment.

"There is certain homosexual conduct that is in violation of the law," said Republican Robert F. McDonnell, speaking of Judge Verbena Andrews. "It certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as judge." (Oral sex is against the law, however, for all couples in Virginia.)

Finally, every gay and lesbian group you might think of signed on to a civil rights brief, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Puerto-Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, People for the American Way and others.

The briefs by and for Texas are due Feb. 18, and oral arguments are expected to be scheduled for sometime in March.

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