June 26, 2003– Lawrence v. Texas
One of the most important and pivotal moments in American Gay History happened 18 years ago, June 25 1998.
John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home and then jailed overnight after police officers responding to a false report found the two men having sex in Lawrence’s bedroom. Lawrence and Garner were convicted of violating Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law, which made it a crime for people of the same sex to have oral or anal sex, even though those sex acts were legal in Texas for people to engage in with persons of an opposite sex.
Lambda Legal quickly responded. They agreed to represent Lawrence and Garner. Battling for years in the Texas courts, Lamda sought to overturn the criminal convictions, which made the two guys registered “sex offenders” and to have Texas’s archaic law declared unconstitutional. When the highest court in Texas eventually refused to even hear the arguments, the US Supreme Court took on the case.
On this day, June 26, in 2003, in a really stunning victory, the highest court in the land found the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law unconstitutional and established, for the first time ever, that gay citizens share the same fundamental right to private sexual intimacy with another adult that straight people have.
Antiquated sodomy laws have often been used to justify discrimination against gay people. In striking down those laws, this historic ruling removed a major roadblock in the battle for Gay Rights. Gay people would no longer be considered “criminals” because they like getting in on with someone of same sex. Even more important, laws that deny gay people liberty or equal protection can no longer find justification on moral grounds alone. This distinction cannot be overstated when arguing with the haters.
The impact of this landmark case is extraordinary. SCOTUS declared all sodomy laws unconstitutional, putting an end to the sodomy laws that remained on the books in 13 states at the time of the ruling, including laws that criminalized only same-sexual conduct and laws that criminalized oral and anal sex for any consenting adult. SCOTUS also reversed Bowers v. Hardwick, its evil 1986 decision that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law which had been a huge setback to gay people’s fight for equality. The decision’s sweeping language about gay people’s equal rights began a new era of legal respect for LGBTQ citizens of our country. Until last June’s SCOTUS ruling on Marriage Equality, Lawrence v. Texas was considered the most significant Gay Rights breakthrough of our era.
I think I may have to celebrate this historic anniversary with some hot, very legal man sex. How about you?