Last edited: February 14, 2005

No Contest Plea in Texas Sodomy Case

Associated Press, November 20, 1998

By Terri Langford

HOUSTON -- Two men found having sex in a private home pleaded no contest Friday to sodomy charges, initiating a legal challenge to the 119-year-old Texas law that bars gay intercourse.

John Geddes Lawrence, 55, and Tyrone Garner, 31, were arrested for engaging in homosexual conduct on Sept. 17 when deputies -- responding to a false report of an armed intruder -- found them having consensual sex in Lawrence's apartment.

Justice of the Peace Mike Parrott fined them $125 each. The men, who want to keep the case alive to fight the law, appealed the fine and posted appeal bonds of $332.50 each, which moves the case to state district court.

"I hope that the law changes,'' Garner said. "I feel like my civil rights were violated and I wasn't doing anything wrong.''

The sodomy law makes homosexual oral and anal sex a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Although on the books for more than a century, the law is rarely enforced. Gay activists have worked unsuccessfully for years to overturn the statute.

Of the 19 states that have a sodomy statute barring consensual anal or oral sex, Texas is one of five that specifically targets same-sex partners. The other four are Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, according to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. of New York.

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