One of the most important & pivotal moments in gay history, in 1998, John Lawrence & Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home & jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men having sex. The 2 men were convicted of violating Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law, which made it a crime for 2 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 a different sex. Lambda Legal quickly responded to represent Lawrence & Garner. Battling for years in the Texas courts, they sought to overturn the criminal convictions (which made the 2 men registrable “sex offenders” in several states) & to have Texas’s law declared unconstitutional. When the highest court in Texas eventually refused to even hear the arguments, the U.S. Supreme Court to took the case On this day in 2003, in a stunning victory, the highest court in the land found the “Homosexual Conduct” law unconstitutional & established, for the 1st time ever, that lesbians & gay men share the same fundamental liberty right to private sexual intimacy with another adult that heterosexuals have.
The mere existence of sodomy laws often had been used to justify wholesale discrimination against Gay people. In striking down those laws, this historic ruling removed a major roadblock in the battle for Gay Rights. No longer can gay people be considered “criminals” because they love others of the same sex. Moreover, laws that deny gay people liberty or equal protection no longer can be justified on moral grounds alone. This distinction can not be overstated when arguing with the haters.
The breadth of this landmark case is extraordinary. The Supreme Court 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 & laws that criminalized oral & anal sex irrespective of the sex of the participants. The Court also reversed Bowers v. Hardwick, its 1986 decision that upheld Georgia’s sodomy law that had been extraordinarily harmful to gay people’s struggles both for liberty & equality. The decision’s sweeping language about gay people’s equal rights to liberty marked a new era of legal respect for the LGBT community. Lawrence v. Texas is considered the most significant gay rights breakthrough of our time.
I think I may have to celebrate this historic anniversary with some hot & very legal man sex.