Texas Law Makes Being Gay a Crime
Post-Intelligencer, December 6, 2002
101 Elliot Avenue W, Seattle, WA 98119
By Jan Jarboe Russell, Syndicated Columnist
Here in Texas things are running about normal on the sex and politics
The day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would review a Texas case that
makes it illegal for homosexuals to have sex, our governor, Rick Perry,
decreed that the state’s 28-year-old law against "deviate sexual
intercourse with another individual of the same sex" is, in Perry’s
words, perfectly "appropriate."
By that, Perry, a long, tall, boot-wearing Texan with a great head of hair
that is the envy of Texans of all genders, did not mean that homosexual sex is
On the contrary, Perry meant that our law—officially and ambitiously
titled as the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law—is appropriate as it stands on
Under this law, if two men or two women are caught having private oral or
anal sex, they can be arrested, jailed and fined $200 for deviant sexual
Frankly, my dears, that might be much more detail than you want to know
about what goes on in private between adults of any persuasion.
Well, too bad. Just when you thought life could not possibly get any
weirder, the Supremes are going to investigate whether the millions of
homosexuals in America are in fact no-good, dirty, rotten lawbreakers and
should be treated to the Lone Star version of the sexual gulag. Trust me: No
details will be spared in the ensuing debate.
Already we have been treated to more than I personally wanted to know about
the sexual life of a Houston couple named John Lawrence and Tyron Garner,
whose case has now landed in the lap of the Supremes.
In 1998, Harris County sheriff’s deputies were called to the couple’s
apartment by reports that an armed person inside was "going crazy."
That turned out to be untrue. Instead, when deputies arrived at the apartment,
imagine their surprise when they found Lawrence and Garner having sex.
The two were arrested, spent a night in jail, paid the $200 fine and
quickly filed a lawsuit, which will now be settled by the Supremes. With any
luck at all, the Supremes will decide that state bans on homosexual sex are
not just silly but unconstitutional.
This is one of those cases where you would think conservatives and liberals
could get together, rise up and agree that what happens between consenting
adults in their own bedrooms is their own damn business.
After all, Texas is not the only state with these kinds of crazy laws. Nine
states have laws worse than Texas’.
In Texas, it’s only the conduct of homosexuals we are hopelessly trying
to regulate. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina,
North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho and Utah, sodomy is a crime for heterosexuals
as well as homosexuals.
Sodomy is generally defined as oral or anal sex. I don’t want to even
think about how many heterosexuals in those nine states might be in occasional
violation of this particular law.
Conservatives ought to hope the Supremes rule that the Texas law is
unconstitutional strictly on this basic issue of invasion of privacy. What
kind of self-respecting conservative wants the government in his or her
bedroom or anyone else’s bedroom?
Liberals ought to hope for the same outcome, because the Texas law
discriminates against gay men and women, pure and simple. It brands
homosexuals as criminals.
That’s not only unfair, it’s downright impractical. Despite its title,
the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law doesn’t appear to have restrained anyone’s
conduct. According to the latest census, there are more than 600,000
households of same-sex partners in the United States, and about 43,000 of
those are in Texas.
This is one of those laws that just gives people something to rebel
Nonetheless, Perry is for it, and the governor before him—President
George Bush—also supported the law. Part of the governor’s job is to
defend our Texas way of life, and—politically speaking—that means playing
to the macho crowd.
The Supremes have a different job description. Among other things, they get
paid to defend constitutional guarantees of privacy and equal protection under
the law. Let’s hope they do it.
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