Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ruling Sparks Revelry, Political Jockeying / Network, June 26, 2003

By Tom Musbach

SUMMARY: After the high court ruling, GLBT Americans joined public celebrations in several U.S. cities, and politicians and advocacy groups hailed the ruling’s historic impact.

After the Supreme Court’s landmark gay rights ruling on Thursday, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans joined public celebrations in several U.S. cities, and politicians and GLBT groups hailed the ruling’s historic impact.

In San Francisco, a crowd gathered at noon as the American flag was raised for the first time in the center of the city’s predominantly gay Castro district. The U.S. flag replaced for one day the huge rainbow flag that has flown over the district for several years.

Gilbert Baker, who created the first rainbow flag as a symbol of gay pride 25 years ago, was on hand for the San Francisco ceremony, along with a group of gay U.S. veterans.

“The highest court in the land has finally recognized that our nation’s Constitution extends to all Americans, including LGBT people,” Teddy Witherington, executive director of the city’s Pride committee, said on Thursday. “Therefore, for today, the rainbow flag’s creator and the Pride committee felt it was appropriate to raise the American flag in celebration of this historic moment.”

Celebration rallies were scheduled for Thursday evening in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and several other cities.

For some cities, notably New York and San Francisco, the long-awaited ruling arrives on the eve of the annual Gay Pride commemoration and is expected to heighten weekend festivities.

The high court case stemmed from the 1998 arrest of two Houston men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were having sex when police entered their home on a false emergency call.

The court’s 6-3 decision on Thursday struck down the Texas sodomy law as well as a dozen similar laws in other states, and experts noted it will affect countless gay rights cases in the future.

“There is no realm of lesbian or gay life—public or private—that has not been devastated by the existence of laws that criminalize adult, consensual, private sexual activity,” said Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “These laws have been used to justify discrimination in employment, adoption, custody, immigration and virtually every other arena of daily life. This ruling will forever change the lives of every lesbian and gay man in this country.”

James Esseks, litigation director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, agreed, saying in a statement: “This decision will affect virtually every important legal and social question involving lesbians and gay men.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest GLBT political group, praised the work of Lambda Legal for taking the case to the Supreme Court and acknowledged the two men at the center of the case.

“The GLBT community also owes a debt of gratitude to John Lawrence and Tyron Garner for letting their story be heard,” said Elizabeth Birch, HRC’s executive director.

Politicians hailed the high court’s decision, too, sometimes emphasizing other aspects of the case.

Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, “This decision also casts further light on the stupidity of Sen. Rick Santorum’s assertion that any court decision which found that people’s rights to private sexual activity was constitutionally protected would inevitably lead the court to declare that bestiality, polygamy and other sexual practices must also be condoned.”

Frank challenged the media and others to wait and see if the senator’s “constitutional doctrine” comes to pass.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is running for president, said he was “extremely pleased” with the ruling, and also took the opportunity to differentiate himself from President Bush.

“The Texas anti-sodomy law was nothing less than government-sanctioned intolerance and discrimination,” Dean said in a statement. “The fact that President Bush defended the law while he was governor shows that he is not the uniter he claims to be.”

In a press briefing on Thursday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to elaborate on the president’s view of the Supreme Court ruling.

“I think on this decision, the administration did not file a brief in this case, unlike in the Michigan case,” Fleischer told reporters, according to the briefing transcript. “And this is now a state matter.”

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