Last edited: January 02, 2005

ACLU Responds to Supreme Court Decision to Consider Texas “Sodomy” Law

Statement from Matt Coles, Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project

American Civil Liberties Union, December 2, 2002
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Cates, ACLU, (212) 549-2568; pager (917) 876-8879

NEW YORK—The ACLU is very pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments in Lawrence v. Texas, a challenge to that state’s law which makes some kinds of sexual intimacy a crime, but only for gay people.

This case provides the Court with the chance to correct the great injustice it did 16 years ago in Bowers v. Hardwick, when it upheld Georgia’s law against “sodomy.” The state should not be allowed to intrude into anyone’s bedroom. And this law is especially offensive, since it only applies to same-sex couples. The Court should say once and for all that in America, equal protection under the law applies to everyone, including lesbians and gay men.

Laws that criminalize consensual intimacy between lesbians and gay men are very damaging. In the eyes of many, the mere existence of these laws defines lesbians and gay men as criminals. They are used to deny parents custody of their children, stifle the voices of lesbian and gay people in the political process, and discriminate against people in the workplace.

These laws also unfairly penalize lesbian and gay people in the criminal justice system. For example, the Court is now deciding whether to take the case of Matthew Limon, who was convicted of having consensual oral sex with another male when they were both teenagers. Had the other teenager been a girl, Limon would be serving no more that a 15-month sentence. Because Limon is gay, he is now serving a sentence of 17 years in Kansas state prison.

The ACLU departed from its usual practice to urge the Court to consider the claims of Lawrence and Garner, who are ably represented by Lambda Legal. It will file a brief now that the Court has taken the case. Laws like these are repellent to the most basic principles of freedom established in the U.S. Constitution. We hope the Court uses this case to strike them down.

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