Last edited: February 14, 2005

Texas Sodomy Case May Go to Supreme Court

The Advocate, April 19, 2002

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Thursday that it likely will go to the U.S. Supreme Court now that the Texas court of criminal appeals has refused to hear an appeal by two Houston men convicted of violating the state’s "homosexual conduct" law by having consensual sex in the privacy of one man’s home.

John Lawrence and Tyron Gardner were arrested in September 1998 when sheriff’s deputies, responding to a false report of an armed intruder, entered a private Houston apartment belonging to one of the men, in which they found Lawrence and Gardner having sex. Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860 but decriminalized such activities by opposite-sex partners in 1974. Texas is one of only three states, along with Kansas and Oklahoma, that prohibits consensual sex acts between same-sex partners only.

Lawrence and Gardner had petitioned the court of criminal appeals, the state’s highest court on criminal cases, after their constitutional challenge was rejected by the intermediate court of appeals. That court said that "preserving public morality" justifies the antigay law.

"It’s shocking that neither of the supreme courts in Texas will even consider the serious constitutional problems with this law," said Lambda director Ruth E. Harlow. Lambda argues that the homosexual conduct law is discriminatory and conflicts with the right of privacy that all Texans enjoy. "The law intrudes on people’s intimate lives and creates a legal double standard for lesbians and gay men," added Lambda supervising attorney Susan Sommer. "These men literally were arrested behind the walls of the home—is there any place more private?"

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