View Full Version : US Supreme Court overturns Texas Gay Persecution Law

June 26th, 2003, 11:43 AM
Supreme Court strikes down Texas sodomy law
Thursday, June 26, 2003 Posted: 11:35 AM EDT (1535 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court struck down a Texas ban on gay sex Thursday, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

The justices voted 6-3 in striking down the Texas law, saying it violated due process guarantees.

"The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court's majority. "The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."

Gay rights advocates immediately hailed the decision, while religious conservatives condemned it.

"It's an historic day for gay Americans," said Ruth Harlow of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay-rights group representing the two Texas men. "I think Americans will be celebratory about this decision."

The ruling reverses a 1986 high court ruling upholding state anti-sodomy laws. Kennedy wrote that homosexuals have "the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government."

The case stemmed from the 1998 arrest of a gay Houston couple under a 28-year-old Texas law making it a crime to engage in same-sex intercourse. A Texas state appeals court found the law "advances a legitimate state interest, namely, preserving public morals."

Gay rights advocates argued the law legitimized discrimination against homosexuals in everyday life.

"This is a very strong ruling that we all, as individuals -- whether gay or straight -- have the liberty to choose who we'll love and how we'll do that in the privacy of our own homes," Harlow said.

In 1986, the Supreme Court upheld the prosecution of two gay men under a Georgia anti-sodomy law in a 5-4 decision that focused on the right to privacy. In Thursday's ruling, Kennedy said that decision "was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today."

"The court is just catching up with American society, which has already recognized gay people's equal liberty, equal humanity," Harlow said. "And the court issued a very powerful decision itself recognizing that humanity."

But the ruling immediately drew fire from a spokesman for a religious conservative group, the National Clergy Council.

"The court has said today that morality -- matters of right and wrong behavior -- do not matter in the law," said the Rev. Rob Shenck, one of the group's founders. "That is an undermining of our concept of justice in this country."

The Texas case already has entered the national political debate, stirred by May comments from Sen. Rick Santorum, a member of the Senate's Republican leadership.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Santorum said if the justices overturned the Texas law, "then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery, you have the right to anything."

Santorum defended his remarks, but some fellow Republicans distanced themselves from them.

The majority opinion appears to cover similar laws in 12 other states and reverses a 1986 high court ruling upholding sodomy laws. Kennedy wrote that homosexuals have "the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention."

Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Kennedy in full. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor agreed with the outcome of the case but not all of Kennedy's rationale.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," Scalia wrote for the three, according to the AP. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

The case is Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, case no. 02-0102).

June 26th, 2003, 02:20 PM
Yet another surprising but welcome development from the Court.

TLOZ Link5
June 26th, 2003, 08:23 PM
You should have seen the ignorant remarks going around on the AOL message board devoted to this topic. *Some people actually said stuff along the lines of "Thank God for AIDS." *I was absolutely sickened.

June 27th, 2003, 05:32 AM
June 27, 2003

A Gay Rights Landmark

Gay Americans won a historic victory yesterday when the Supreme Court struck down Texas' sodomy law. The sweeping 6-to-3 decision made a point of overturning a 17-year-old precedent that was curtly dismissive of gay rights. Yesterday's ruling has implications that reach beyond sodomy, and is an important step toward winning gay men and women full equality under the law.

The challenge to Texas' "Homosexual Conduct" law was brought by two men who were convicted of engaging in "deviate sexual intercourse" in a private home. John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner argued that the law denied them equal protection by criminalizing sexual acts of same-sex couples that were legal for different-sex couples. More broadly, they argued that criminalizing their private sexual acts deprived them of their liberty and privacy rights.

The Supreme Court could have ruled on relatively narrow equal protection grounds, and affected only states with laws singling out gays. But five justices went further, holding that any anti-sodomy law violates gay people's liberty rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion noted that the case is really about gay people's ability to maintain personal relationships. It demeans gays, he wrote, to see it as a dispute about sexual conduct, "just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse."

The court took direct aim at Bowers v. Hardwick, the notorious 1986 ruling that rejected claims similar to the ones that prevailed yesterday. Declaring that Bowers "was not correct when it was decided, and is not correct today," the court overruled it. It is a testament to how much has changed that even today's conservative Supreme Court could see that Bowers belongs in history's dustbin.

The three dissenters accused the majority of advancing a "homosexual agenda." But their legal analysis relied on the same tired arguments conservatives have long used to deny minority rights. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the three, called the ruling "the invention of a brand-new `constitutional right' by a Court that is impatient of democratic change." It is the same argument made in 1967 for upholding a Virginia law banning marriage between blacks and whites. The idea that minorities must wait for the majority to recognize their basic rights is as wrong today as it was then.

It is too early to say how profound an impact yesterday's decision will have. Gay-rights advocates will no doubt cite it in employment discrimination and gay adoption cases. And no less an authority than Justice Scalia, in his dissent, suggested it may provide a basis for upholding gay marriage. The majority opinion ended by noting the genius of our Constitution: that "persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

June 29th, 2003, 06:33 PM
I have to laugh when I see religious conservatives call for homosexuality to be banned outright for insane behavior, not just in the military. This gay-straight debate is getting more hilarious with every day of the week. I almost rolled over laughing when I read this report. :biggrin:

Frist Endorses Idea of Gay Marriage Ban

By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Senate majority leader said Sunday he supported a proposed constitutional amendment to ban homosexual marriage in the United States.

Sen. Bill Frist (news, bio, voting record), R-Tenn., said the Supreme Court's decision last week on gay sex threatens to make the American home a place where criminality is condoned.

The court on Thursday threw out a Texas law that prohibited acts of sodomy between homosexuals in a private home, saying that such a prohibition violates the defendants' privacy rights under the Constitution. The ruling invalidated the Texas law and similar statutes in 12 other states.

"I have this fear that this zone of privacy that we all want protected in our own homes is gradually or I'm concerned about the potential for it gradually being encroached upon, where criminal activity within the home would in some way be condoned," Frist told ABC's "This Week."

"And I'm thinking of whether it's prostitution or illegal commercial drug activity in the home ... to have the courts come in, in this zone of privacy, and begin to define it gives me some concern."

Asked whether he supported an amendment that would ban any marriage in the United States except a union of a man and a woman, Frist said: "I absolutely do, of course I do.

"I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between what is traditionally in our Western values has been defined as between a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment."

Same-sex marriages are legal in Belgium and the Netherlands. Canada's Liberal government announced two weeks ago that it would enact similar legislation soon.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., was the main sponsor of the proposal offered May 21 to amend the Constitution. It was referred to the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution on Wednesday, the day before the high court ruled.

As drafted, the proposal says:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state under state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

To be added to the Constitution, the proposal must be approved by two-thirds of the House and the Senate and ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Frist said Sunday he respects the Supreme Court decision but feels the justices overstepped their bounds.

"Generally, I think matters such as sodomy should be addressed by the state legislatures," Frist said. "That's where those decisions with the local norms, the local mores are being able to have their input in reflected.

"And that's where it should be decided, and not in the courts."

(Edited by Agglomeration at 6:34 pm on June 29, 2003)

June 29th, 2003, 09:45 PM
You should have seen the ignorant remarks going around on the AOL message board devoted to this topic. *Some people actually said stuff along the lines of "Thank God for AIDS." *I was absolutely sickened.

Not particularly funny in that its just something else to worry about. Without having to worry about the legality of consent.

I was suprised to hear about this law in existance, not in that's it would actually be enforced in Texas.

June 30th, 2003, 10:13 PM
When I last lived in Tennessee, over a decade ago, there were still laws on the books banning oral sex of any kind, and laws governing the very positions that heterosexuals were allowed to copulate.