Responding to a report of a possible gunman, Houston police burst
into an apartment and discover, instead, two men engaged in a sex
The activity is consensual, and within the privacy of one of the
men's own home. Nonetheless, the two are charged with violating
Texas' homosexual-conduct statute that outlaws "deviate sexual
intercourse with another individual of the same sex."
Both men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, are held overnight in
jail and fined $200.
The matter might have ended there, but the men decided to appeal
their case. They argued that Texas was violating the constitutional
rights of gays by prosecuting them for engaging in behaviors that
are not illegal under Texas law if practiced by heterosexual
In a potential landmark case, the US Supreme Court will examine
Wednesday whether the Texas law violates the equal protection and
privacy rights of homosexuals, or whether the law is, instead, a
legitimate attempt by the state to uphold its view of sexual
morality, family values, and traditional marriage.
Supporters of the law say there is no fundamental right in the
Constitution to engage in certain homosexual acts. To strike down
the Texas law, they say, could create such a right and lay the legal
groundwork for recognition of same-sex marriages.
Opponents of the law say among the most fundamental of rights
guaranteed in the Constitution is the right to be let alone. The
government does not enjoy the unfettered power to intrude into the
most intimate and private aspects of what happens in American
bedrooms, they say.
"What we are asking for is to not have the police prosecute you
for choosing one particular way to express your love for someone
else in private," says Ruth Harlow of Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fund, a gay-rights legal group representing the two men.
Some groups promoting family values and traditional marriage see
in the case the thin edge of a wedge that could undermine favored
treatment of male-female marriage by state lawmakers.
"[This case] could have broad implications not just for the 13
states that have sodomy laws, but for the marriage laws in every
state," says Joshua Baker of the Marriage Law Project at Catholic
University Law School.
In addition to Texas, three other states - Kansas, Missouri, and
Oklahoma - make it a crime for gays to engage in sodomy. Nine other
states make those same acts illegal for both gays and heterosexuals.
The states are: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. …