Ruling Overturns Sodomy Laws
June 26, 2003
By Paul Johnson, 365Gay.com Newscenter, Washington Bureau
Washington, D.C.—The Supreme Court Thursday struck down
laws outlawing sodomy. In a 6—3 decision, the court said that states cannot
make laws regarding the private sexual conduct of Americans.
The ruling said the Texas law violates the Due Process
clause of the Constitution. Writing for the majority Justice Anthony M.
Kennedy called the ban on gay sex an “unconstitutional violation of
“[It] demeans the lives of homosexual persons,”
Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Kennedy in full. Justice Sandra Day
O’Connor agreed with the outcome of the case but not all of Kennedy’s
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
“The court has largely signed on to the so-called
homosexual agenda,” Scalia wrote for the three. He took the unusual step of
reading his dissent from the bench.
“The court has taken sides in the culture war,”
Scalia said, adding that he has “nothing against homosexuals.”
The overturn of the ban on gay sex was hailed by gay
activists. (Reaction To Ruling)
“Its an historic day for all gay Americans” said Ruth
Harlow, a lawyer for Lambda legal which argued the case on behalf of the two
The ruling negates not only the sodomy law in Texas, but
those in a dozen other states. Three states—Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas
which have laws targeting only gays. Another nine states—Alabama, Florida,
Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and
Virginia—have sodomy laws that apply to all adults, gay or straight.
The case involve two Houston men, John Lawrence and Tyron
Garner. They pleaded no contest to breaking the sodomy law in 1998, after
police broke into Lawrence’s home in search of an armed intruder and
discovered the two men engaged in intercourse.
No intruder was found and police later said the tip there
was an intruder came from an anonymous source.
Both men were arrested under the Texas sodomy statute and
imprisoned overnight. Following their conviction they were fined $200 each and
ordered to pay court costs.
The convictions bar both men from holding several types
of jobs in Texas. If they move to other states, they could be required to
register as sex offenders.
The men “are entitled to respect for their private
lives,” Justice Kennedy wrote in his decision.
“The state cannot demean their existence or control
their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,” he said.
Today’s ruling reverses Bowers v. Hardwick where the
Supreme Court 17 years ago ruled 5—4 that a Georgia statute criminalizing
consensual sodomy was constitutional.
[Home] [News] [Lawrence