Last edited: January 01, 2005

Jubilation As Sodomy Laws Declared Void, June 26, 2003

By Doreen Brandt, Newscenter, Washington Bureau

Washington, D.C.—Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the Texas sodomy law is the most important gay rights decision in a generation LGBT rights advocates say.

In a conference call with LGBT journalists across the country, Ruth Harlow, lead attorney in the case and Legal Director at Lambda Legal called it a landmark decision.

“This is a giant leap forward for all gay people where we will no longer branded as criminals by the highest court in the country,” said Ruth Harlow.

“This ruling effectively strikes down the sodomy laws in every state that still has them – but its impact is even broader. It will be a powerful tool for gay people in all 50 states where we continue fighting to be treated equally.” Harlow said.

“For decades, these laws have been a major roadblock to equality. They’ve labeled the entire gay community as criminals and second-class citizens. Today, the Supreme Court ended that once and for all.”

John Lawrence, one of the two clients in the case said he and fellow client Tyron Garner were “very pleased with this ruling”

“This ruling lets us get on with our lives and leaves door open for all gay people all across the country to be treated equally” Lawrence said.

Reaction from other LGBT activist groups was equally joyful.

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

“This is an historic day for fair-minded Americans everywhere,” said Human Rights Campaign executive director Elizabeth Birch.

“We are elated and gratified that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has seen discriminatory state sodomy laws for what they are—divisive, mean-spirited laws that were designed to single out and marginalize an entire group of Americans for unequal treatment.

“This ruling opens the door for new advances toward full equality and should be viewed as a challenge to legislators to help pass important legal protections for GLBT Americans—like employment non-discrimination laws and comprehensive hate crimes legislation.”

Charles Francis, founder of the Republican Unity Coalition called the ruling a huge advancement.

“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 Francis. The Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight organization 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,” Francis said.

Gay Democrats were quick to point out that the decision is a repudiation of President Bush’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. “It was Bush who, as Governor, enforced the law in this case, and in 1999 called the jailing of same-sex couples ‘a symbolic gesture of traditional values,’” John Marble, media director National Stonewall Democrats told

Congressman Barney Frank issued a warning about the decision.

“Those of us who welcome this decision as a strong statement of America’s commitment to individual liberty cannot be complacent,” he said.

“Two of the six Justices who voted to declare the Texas statute unconstitutional may well leave the court before the end of the term of the President to be elected in 2004. Justice Stevens will be in his late eighties by that time, and Justice O’Connor, who has had cancer, will be in her late seventies. If George Bush is re-elected and replaces these two with the sort of people he has hailed as ideal Justices – most particularly Justice Scalia – our 6 to 3 majority in favor of liberty can be converted back into 5 to 4 bulwark for oppressive government interference in our lives. Anyone who doubts that should read the virulent, anti-gay dissent by Justice Scalia, who complains that Justice Kennedy “coos” in his support of personal liberty and denounces the six member majority for furthering the “homosexual agenda” and for opposing “the culture war” against homosexuality. It is clear from Justice Scalia’s opinion that he is entirely in favor of such a war being waged. A re-elected George Bush, given the chance to replace Justices Stevens and O’Connor with two more followers of Justice Scalia will thus be able to undo all of the good that was done today.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force while praising the decision decried what it calls “the sorry state of legal rights for gay people in this country.”

“In 2003, it’s appalling that states would still argue that there’s nothing wrong with the police kicking down the bedroom doors of a gay or lesbian couple and arresting them for having intimate relations with the person they love,” NGLTF said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court has recognized what most Americans regard as common sense—the government has no place regulating private sexual behavior between consenting adults,” said Tracy L. Duckett, spokesperson for People for the American Way.

“The Court has recognized as law what most Americans see as basic fairness: being gay should not mean being a second-class citizen. This decision has not eliminated all the barriers to full equality for gay Americans, but it takes a major step towards dismantling those barriers.”

In New York, where bans on gay sex were overturned a number of years ago, a major rally is planned for later today. Rallies will also be held in cities across the country.

“All Americans, gay and straight, who believe government has no business determining what two consenting adults may do in the privacy of their home, have cause to celebrate their freedom today,” said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Alan Van Capelle.

“We have taken another step in securing the rights this country is supposed to provide to everyone, but too often gives to some and not to others.

In California, Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California called the ruling long overdue.

“The highest court in the land has finally recognized that the protections of our nation’s Constitution applies to all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” Kors said.

Calling it “The most significant victory for gay and lesbian rights in my lifetime,” veteran human rights activist and founder of the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Churches Rev. Troy D. Perry hailed the Supreme Court decision.

“For US residents, this is the single most significant legal victory for the GLBT community in US history. It’s more than a legal victory—it is a powerful reminder that love and sexual expression are of equal importance and value to both heterosexual and homosexual families,” Perry added.

A Harris online poll, released Thursday shows that seventy-four percent of American adults believe private, consenting sexual relations between same-sex couples should not be illegal. The poll was conducted in April, while the justices were still considering their decision.

But, not everyone was pleased with the decision.

“This ruling undermines our concept of justice in this country,” said Rev Bob Schenk, a spokesperson for the National Clergy Council.

“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.”

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