Last edited: February 14, 2005

Sodomy Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Associated Press, June 8, 2000

By Juan A. Lozano

HOUSTON –– A Texas appeals court declared the state’s sodomy law unconstitutional Thursday, throwing out the case of two Houston men who were arrested inside a home in 1998 for having sex with each other.

Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860 but dropped criminal penalties for partners of the opposite sex in 1974.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 14th Court of Appeals said the law violates the Texas Constitution because it made it illegal for same-sex partners to engage in this activity while making it legal for opposite sex partners.

"The simple fact is, the same behavior is criminal for some but not for others, based solely on the sex of the individuals who engage in the behavior," Justice John S. Anderson wrote.

The law was challenged after John Geddes Lawrence and Tyrone Garner were arrested when police entered Lawrence’s home and found the men having sex. They were charged with "deviant homosexual conduct," a misdemeanor.

The officers had entered the home after a third man falsely reported an armed intruder was there.

The men pleaded no contest so they could start the legal challenge.

"We are extremely pleased with today’s decision," said Suzanne Goldberg, an attorney with the Lamba Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay advocacy group that helped defend the two men. "We consider this a tremendous victory for lesbians and gay men throughout Texas. The state can no longer have a special rule allowing it to police the bedrooms of same sex couples."

There was no immediate comment from the Texas attorney general’s office on whether it would appeal.

Lawrence said: "At least this nightmare brought some benefit for all of us in Texas. I am thankful and relieved that this horrible experience may finally be over."

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