Last edited: November 22, 2003

Ruling Reshapes Fights Over Anti-Gay Laws

Detroit News, July 14, 2003
615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226
Fax: 313-222-6417

By Deb Price, The Detroit News

In just the brief time since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its blockbuster ruling June 26 sweeping away state anti-sodomy laws and speaking up for the “dignity” of gay Americans, the outlines of how dramatically American life will be reshaped are already coming into view.

“It is a new day. The world has changed,” declares attorney James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union, who expects the wonderfully inclusive ruling to be a powerful tool for tearing down all sorts of anti-gay barriers.

If there can be any doubt about Esseks’ judgment, listen to one of the leading attorneys on the other side, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel to televangelist Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. “Gay adoptions, foster care, custody—those issues are over,” Sekulow told the National Law Journal. “They’ve won because of Lawrence (v. Texas). If I were litigating for them, I would strike while the iron is hot. What’s the next step? Gay marriage.”

In other words, from the anti-gay perspective, every battle can be expected to be lost short of perhaps the one for U.S.-issued marriage licenses. That view was echoed by anti-gay Justice Antonin Scalia, who rightly pointed out that by ruling that moral disapproval of homosexuality is no justification for anti-gay discrimination, the court had left even states’ bans on same-sex marriage on “shaky grounds.”

Already, Lawrence’s electricity is being drawn on:

  • Immediately following its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered Kansas to re-examine the discriminatory conviction of a gay youth now serving a 17-year prison sentence because the slightly younger teenager with whom he had consensual sex was male. The state’s “Romeo and Juliet” law would have resulted in a mere slap on the wrist if his partner had been female.
  • On the day of the Lawrence ruling, a Missouri prosecutor dropped charges against four gay men accused of violating that state’s same-sex-only, anti-sodomy law.
  • A former Army lieutenant colonel is challenging the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and the military’s anti-sodomy statute. Loren Loomis, who was wounded in Vietnam and was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, was kicked out of the military one week before reaching the 20-year mark, when he would have qualified for $1.1 million in retirement benefits. Loomis’ homosexuality was exposed after an arsonist burned his home.
  • A federal ruling later this summer on whether Florida’s ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional is likely to be the first to cite the history-making Lawrence decision.
  • And lawyers are using Lawrence in going after a Lubbock, Tex., school district for refusing to allow a gay-straight student club.

That is merely a start.

Drawing on the court’s explicit condemnation of disrespectful, discriminatory treatment of gay people, lawyers at the nation’s top gay legal groups say they will lean on the Lawrence decision to challenge:

State prohibitions in Texas and elsewhere on allowing gay people to work as, say, police officers. Requirements by family courts that a gay parent’s partner not be present when children from a prior marriage are visiting. The refusal to list both same-sex partners as parents on a child’s birth certificate. The failure of schools to stop anti-gay bullying.

Attorney Michael Adams of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund says Lawrence has given gay-rights lawyers “a renewed sense of possibility.”

And that is just what the U.S. Supreme Court now wants gay Americans to have. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruling in Lawrence eloquently points out that our Constitution’s grand promises were intentionally kept vague because our forefathers “knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress.”

Like a giant eraser, the Lawrence ruling will wipe away countless laws that only oppress those of us who are gay.

[Home] [News] [Lawrence v. Texas]