Joyful, Relieved Over Court Ruling
Associated Press, June 26,
By Lisa Leff
SAN FRANCISCO—Gays exulted
Thursday over the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a Texas law
banning gay sex acts. A conservative group warned the ruling could lead to gay
Gay-rights activists, who regarded the challenge to the
anti-sodomy law as one of their most important legal cases in decades, said
the high court’s ruling would go far toward guaranteeing equal rights for
“This decision is a historic, transformative
decision,” said Ruth Harlow, who as legal director of Lambda Legal was the
lead attorney in the case. “The court had the courage to reverse one of its
gravest mistakes, and to replace that with a resounding statement of equality
and liberty for all.”
The Supreme Court was criticized by civil rights groups
17 years ago when it upheld a Georgia law similar to Texas’. With its 6-3
decision Thursday, the court majority overturned the Texas anti-sodomy
statute, and appeared to sweep away laws in a dozen other states that ban oral
and anal sex for everyone, or for homosexuals in particular.
Reaction was especially strong in those states—Kansas,
Oklahoma, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia—where the ruling would have the
most immediate impact.
“It could have been a historic day just for Texas, but
it’s a historic day, period,” said Paul Scott, executive director of the
Dallas-based John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Resource Center. “This is
a great thing to get recognition that gays and lesbians have a viable place in
society, that the court sees us as productive citizens and entitled to
The president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, John
Giles, agreed that personal privacy should be protected, but said he worries
the decision will further a national campaign to legalize marriage between
“God have mercy on America,” he said.
In Missouri, gay-rights activists who have spent years
lobbying state lawmakers to repeal an anti-sodomy provision said it was great
to have the Supreme Court finish the job for them.
“This is something that has been a black eye on our
Supreme Court and our country and in Missouri for years,” said Jeff Wunrow,
executive director of PROMO, a Missouri gay rights organization.
Mathew D. Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, an
Orlando, Fla.-based religious rights group, predicted that cultural
conservatives would not let the court’s decision stand unchallenged.
“The split decision underscores the importance of the
next Supreme Court appointment, not only on the issue of abortion but now on
the issue of same-sex unions,” he said. “Regulating homosexual conduct and
marriage is the right of the people to be exercised through the legislative
rather than judicial branches of government.”
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,” said Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for
Lesbian Rights. “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.”
The 6-3 decision came in a case brought by two men
arrested in 1998. They were jailed overnight and ordered to pay $200 fines
after police, responding to a false complaint of an armed intruder, discovered
them having sex in their bedroom.
“We never chose to be public figures or to take on the
spotlight. We also never thought we could be arrested this way,” said one of
the men, John Lawrence, who as lead plaintiff lent his name to the case,
Lawrence v. Texas. “We are glad this ruling not only lets us get on with our
lives, but opens the door for all gay people to be treated equally.”
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.
Gay advocacy groups from Alaska to Florida planned
celebrations later in the day.
[Home] [News] [Lawrence