Filings Support Gay Couple in Sodomy Case
PlanetOut.com 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
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
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
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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