Two Men Continue Fight to Overturn Texas Anti-Gay Law
Lambda urges court to hear case and throw out states
"Homosexual Conduct" law
Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fund, April 16, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Susan Sommer 212-809-8585 x 271
Jennifer Grissom 212-809-8585 x 231
NEW YORK Two Houston men who were criminally
convicted for having sex in the privacy of their homes are petitioning the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review their case after a Court of Appeals
ruling upheld the states "Homosexual Conduct" law. Lambda Legal
Defense and Education Fund represents the men and aims to finally bring an end
to the states same-sex only sodomy law.
"Texass highest criminal court should declare this archaic and
biased law unconstitutional. The law intrudes on peoples intimate lives and
creates a legal double standard for lesbians and gay men," said Lambda
Supervising Attorney Susan Sommer, who drafted the petition for review with
Lambda Legal Director Ruth E. Harlow.
Lambda argues that the Court of Appeals erred in citing an interest in
"preserving public morality" to justify the laws discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation and that the court was also wrong in
finding that the law does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Additionally,
Lambda argues that the law is contrary to the right of privacy that all Texans
Said Harlow, "The Court of Criminal Appeals should hear these
important constitutional claims against a law that greatly harms not just our
clients, but gay men and lesbians throughout the state."
The case began September 17, 1998, when sheriffs deputies, responding to
a false report of an armed intruder, entered a private Houston apartment where
they found two men engaging in intimate conduct.
Both men were arrested and jailed for over 24 hours before being released
on $200 bond each. A county criminal court convicted John Lawrence and Tyron
Garner of a Class C misdemeanor, which carries up to a $500 fine. Lambda
appealed on their behalf.
Last June, a panel of the appeals court held that the statute violates the
Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution because it criminalized oral
and anal sexual conduct depending on the sex of the individuals involved,
without adequate justification. Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860, but
decriminalized such activities by different-sex partners in 1974.
On motion by the state, the entire appeals court reheard the case, and this
March ruled 7-2 to uphold the law, over a strong dissent by Justice John
Noted Sommer, "Texas State Representative Debra Danburgs bill in
the legislature to repeal the Homosexual Conduct law has made it out of
committee this year, and will be the subject of public hearings, demonstrating
greater awareness of and concern about this unnecessary, unfair law."
Texas now is one of only three states, along with Kansas and Oklahoma, that
prohibit consensual sex acts between same-sex partners only. Lambda recently
won its legal challenge to a similar Arkansas law in Picado v. Jegley.
Twelve other states still prohibit consensual oral and anal sex between
different- and same-sex partners alike, despite the nationwide trend toward
abolishing such invasive criminal laws.
Lambda Cooperating Attorney Mitchell Katine of the Houston law firm
Williams, Birnberg & Anderson assisted with the petition. Lambda is the
oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of
lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. With 16 attorneys, Lambda has
its headquarters in New York and regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and
Atlanta. Lambda will open an office in Dallas in 2002.
(Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, No. 14-99-0019-CR)
Link directly to Lambdas news release: http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/pages/documents/record?record=820
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
120 Wall Street, Suite 1500
New York, NY 10005-3904
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