Last edited: February 14, 2005

Texas Rep. Danburg Files Bill Seeking Sodomy Law’s Removal

Houston Chronicle, January 20, 2001
801 Texas Avenue, Houston, TX, 77002
Fax: 713-220-6575

By Eric Berger

Armed with a recent court ruling calling Texas’ sodomy law unconstitutional, State Rep. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, has again filed a bill to remove the law from the books.

Danburg said the law, which bans anal and oral sex between homosexuals, is archaic.

"It’s only used for the very thing a majority of Texans say they don’t support — discrimination," she said.

Also, with the ruling on the books, the state is forced to mount costly defenses against challenges to the law — most notably a 1998 case in which two gay men were arrested for having sex, Danburg said.

Texas’ sodomy law is rarely enforced, but when it was enforced in the 1998 case, gay rights activists seized upon that arrest as an opportunity to challenge the measure in court.

The two men, John Geddes Lawrence, 57, and Tyrone Garner, 33, sued the state claiming the law was unconstitutional. Last June, a three-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law violated the Equal Rights Amendment of the state’s Constitution by singling out homosexuals.

The case is pending before the full 14th Court of Appeals, and a hearing date has not been set.

Unless the Danburg bill is passed, the case will almost certainly be appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which would have the final say on the matter statewide.

"I think there’s a particular timeliness to bringing this up, given that ruling," said Dianne Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. "Debra’s the perfect person to carry it, she understands and has followed this legal battle and legislative battle for years."

The Republican Party of Texas has strongly opposed removing the sodomy law, and attacked the two judges — both Republicans — that ruled the law unconstitutional.

They added the following to their platform:

"We publicly rebuke (Chief Justice Paul Murphy and Justice John Anderson), who ruled that the 100-year-old Texas sodomy law is unconstitutional, and ask that all members of the Republican Party of Texas oppose their re-election," the platform states.

Anderson was unopposed for re-election in November. Murphy’s term is not up until 2002.

Danburg has filed a bill to remove the sodomy law half a dozen times. During the last two legislative sessions, the bill has not made it out of the criminal jurisprudence committee.

Of the nine members of the House committee this session, five are Democrats who will support the measure, Danburg said, including its chairman, Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Danburg said she only feels the bill should come out of the committee with bipartisan support, so she is looking to have two Republicans join the five Democrats.

She said one of the four Republicans has privately pledged to support the measure if another one does.

"All we need is one more Republican," she said.

— Kathryn A. Wolfe in Austin contributed to this report.

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