Last edited: December 04, 2004

As Gays Celebrate, Others Predict ‘Terrible Consequences’

Associated Press, June 26, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO—Gay men and lesbians across the nation reacted with relief and triumph today after the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that bans gay sex acts even in private. A conservative group said the ruling would allow “harmful sexual conduct.”

Gay-rights activists, who regarded the anti-sodomy statute challenge as one of their most important legal cases in decades, said the high court’s ruling would go far toward guaranteeing equal rights for homosexuals.

“This is historic,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “There is not a gay person in this country who has not lived their entire life under the yoke of these laws existing somewhere.”

The ruling disappointed Christian legal groups that had written briefs urging the justices to uphold the Texas law and similar statutes in a dozen other states.

“Apparently they have gone the whole route and fully legitimized sodomy in America,” said Scott Lively, director of the Pro Family Law Center. “This is going to have terrible consequences for our nation. In essence, the court has said that states cannot regulate harmful sexual conduct.”

The 6-3 decision came in a case brought by two Houston-area men who in 1998 were charged with breaking Texas’ Homosexual Conduct Law. They were jailed overnight and ordered to pay $200 fines after police, responding to a false armed intruder complaint, discovered them having sex in their bedroom.

Though seldom enforced by police, the Texas law and similar provisions in a dozen other states are sometimes invoked by judges to deny homosexuals legal custody of their children, equal employment guarantees and other civil rights.

“It absolutely signals an entirely changed landscape,” Kendall said. “It’s impossible to be considered a full and equal citizen if you’re a criminal in 13 states.” She added that the decision marked “a cultural change as much as a legal change.”

That the high court’s ruling came in June, the month traditionally reserved for gay pride celebrations across the country, made the victory all the more sweet, advocates said.

“Given previous rulings, it’s extraordinary and it’s inspiring that the court ruled that gays and lesbians be treated the same as their straight brothers and sisters, no better and no worse,” said Charles Francis, founder of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight organization that counts former President Gerald Ford and former Sen. Alan Simpson as honorary members. “Today’s ruling is not a victory for gays nearly so much as a victory for the four words carved in stone on the court house: Equal Justice Under Law.”

Advocacy groups from Alaska to Florida planned celebrations later in the day. A 5 p.m. rally is planned in Houston on the steps of City Hall., 901 Bagby.

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