Last edited: February 14, 2005

High Court May Hear Sodomy Case

The Data Lounge, July 16, 2002

DALLAS—The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund on Tuesday asked the United States Supreme Court to review the Texas "Homosexual Conduct" Law and declare it unconstitutional.

The law which bans oral and anal contact between consenting adults of the same sex, does not apply to heterosexual couples. The men represented by Lambda Legal were arrested and convicted for having sex in the privacy of one man’s home.

The case, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, presents the High Court with two independent constitutional claims that Lambda Legal urges it to review, one based on equal protection and another based on privacy. As part of its privacy argument, Lambda Legal asks the Court to reconsider Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 decision that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law and rejected a federal right to privacy challenge brought by a gay man.

The Georgia law applied to all couples and has since been struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court.

"These two men in Texas were arrested, jailed, and criminally convicted for having consensual sex in John Lawrence’s home late one evening. The state should not have that power, and we are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene," said Lambda’s Ruth Harlow. "There are compelling constitutional rights at stake that make it vital for the Supreme Court to consider this case and strike down this discriminatory law once and for all."

Lee Taft, who runs the newly opened Lambda office in Dallas said the law impacts every state resident who believes their homes should be protected from unwarranted government intrusion. "In particular," he said, "it brands lesbian and gay Texans as second class citizens... used to justify all kinds of discrimination."

The Texas case, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, began on September 17, 1998, when sheriff’s deputies, responding to a false report of an armed intruder, entered John Lawrence’s apartment and found Lawrence and Tyron Garner having sex. Both were arrested and jailed overnight. Once convicted, they were each required to pay a fine. The Texas state courts upheld the convictions, allowing the law to stand based on Texas’ desire to enforce "moral standards."

"The law intrudes on people’s intimate lives and creates a legal double standard for lesbians and gay men. These men literally were arrested behind the walls of the home. Is there any place that should be more private?"

Only three other states—Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri—still have consensual sex laws that target gay men and lesbians. Similar to the recent decision in Arkansas, courts in many states, including Georgia, Kentucky, Montana, and Tennessee, have all struck down so called sodomy laws under their state constitutions. Nine states criminalize private oral and anal sex for both gay and non-gay consenting adults. [sic. 10 states.]

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