Last edited: February 14, 2005

Texas Court Upholds Sodomy Law

Associated Press, March 15, 2001

By Kristen Hays

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas appeals court upheld the state’s sodomy law Thursday in the case of two men charged with having sex in a private home.

The nine-member 14th Court of Appeals voted 7-2 to overturn a June ruling by three members of the same panel that said the law was unconstitutional because it forbids sex between same-sex partners, yet allows the same acts between heterosexuals.

The sodomy law, which has been on the books for more than a century, was challenged after John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested on Sept. 17, 1998 and charged with engaging in homosexual conduct.

Harris County sheriff’s deputies had entered Lawrence’s apartment after receiving a false report of an armed intruder inside but found the men having sex.

Under the sodomy law, homosexual oral and anal sex is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Lawrence and Garner pleaded no contest in a justice of the peace court and later in a Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law so they could start the legal challenge.

Prosecutor Bill Delmore said he was pleased with the ruling.

Ruth E. Harlow, legal director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who argued the case on behalf of the two men, said they would appeal.

"The court’s ruling failed to enforce the constitution’s promise of equality," she said.

She said the ruling also allows the government to overstep its bounds by "bashing down the bedroom door" to criminalize consensual sex between same-sex partners.

"It guts the right to privacy," she said.

Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas are the only states that outlaw sodomy between same-sex partners. Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860 but decriminalized it for opposite-sex partners in 1974.

Twelve other states prohibit sodomy between same- and opposite-sex partners. Harlow said similar laws in Georgia, Tennessee and Montana have recently been thrown out.

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