Last edited: February 14, 2005

High Court Poised to Hear 2 Equal Protection Cases

In one, race as a ‘plus’ factor in admission policies is challenged; the other tests whether gays can be prosecuted for having sex at home.

Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2002
Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: 213-237-7679 or 213-237-5319

By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court is poised to take up major cases on college affirmative action and gay rights, possibly as early as Monday, that seek to overturn much-disputed precedents, one the bane of conservatives and the other a thorn for liberals.

Both cases test the meaning of the Constitution’s guarantee of the "equal protection of the laws." . . .

The second tests whether gays can be prosecuted for having sex at home.

In 1986, the court in a 5-4 vote upheld the prosecution of two gay men under a Georgia anti-sodomy law in the case of Bowers vs. Hardwick.

That case focused on the right to privacy. The Lambda Legal Defense Fund in New York, a gay rights group, is urging the court to revisit the Bowers decision and to rule that prosecuting same-sex couples, but not heterosexuals, for sodomy violates the equal-treatment standard.

The latest case, Lawrence vs. Texas, arose when two men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, were arrested in a Houston-area apartment by officers who were responding to a false report of an armed intruder. Instead, the police arrested the men, and they were fined $200 for having sex.

"The state should not have that power, and we are asking the Supreme Court ... to strike down this discriminatory law once and for all," says Ruth Harlow, Lambda’s legal director.

The Texas law criminalizes "deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex." Besides Texas, only three other states—Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri—still enforce anti-sodomy laws that target gays and lesbians.

The gay rights lawyers hope the court’s liberal justices will vote to revisit the issue. Their appeal went before the high court this week. . . .

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