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Lawrence v. Texas

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John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner v. Texas
Argued March 26, 2003
Decided June 26, 2003
Full case nameLawrence et al. v. Texas
Docket nos.02-102
Citations539 U.S. 558 (more)
ArgumentOral argument
Opinion announcementOpinion announcement
A Texas statute banning homosexual intercourse violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajorityAnthony M. Kennedy, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Stephen Breyer
ConcurrenceSandra Day O'Connor
DissentClarence Thomas, joined by William H. Rehnquist
DissentAntonin Scalia
Laws applied
41 S. W. 3d 349, reversed and remanded

Lawrence v. Texas, 539 US 558 (2003), is the primary piece of case law which ultimately decriminalized sodomy in the United States. Ruled upon by the United States Supreme Court in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas concerned a Texas law that criminalized consensual, adult homosexual intercourse which was found unconstitutional under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[1]

Background of the case[change | change source]

Houston Police were tipped off to a weapons disturbance purportedly from the residence of John Lawrence. Upon entering the apartment, police found Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaging in sexual intercourse.[2] At the time, a statute was in place which banned such homosexual sex acts and further deemed homosexuality a "deviance." Both Lawrence and Garner were arrested and convicted under this statute.[3]

Upon appeal, the Texas State Court of Appeals affirmed the men's convictions citing Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 US 186 (1986), as the controlling case.[4]

Lawrence filed for certiorari to the Supreme Court which was granted in 2003.

Ruling[change | change source]

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Lawrence's conviction and declared the Texas anti-sodomy statute unconstitutional. The decision hinged on the right of Lawrence and Garner to engage in private conduct under the Due Process Clause. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, stated "[Lawrence and Garner's] right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government."[5] The decision to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick was 5-4, with Justice O'Connor (a member of the Bowers majority back in 1986) refusing to overturn Bowers and instead supporting the Lawrence ruling on narrower Equal Protection grounds because the challenged Texas law made male-male sodomy illegal but not male-female sodomy.[6]

Criticism[change | change source]

In a 2004 law review article, U.S. law professors Nelson Lund and John McGinnis criticized Lawrence v. Texas due to its alleged judicial hubris and expressed fears that its extremely broad language could have unexpected consequences in the long(er)-run.[7]

Related pages[change | change source]

United States Obscenity Law

References[change | change source]

  1. "Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003)". Justia Law. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  2. Hertzberg, Hendrik (2002-12-09). "Unnatural Law". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  3. Buchanan, Wyatt (2002-12-03). "Top court to address sodomy / Case of gay Texans, fined for having sex, could affect laws in 13 states". SFGate. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  4. Reinert, Patty; Bureau, Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Washington (2003-03-24). "Texas sodomy law goes to high court this week". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. "Lawrence v. Texas". Oyez.
  7. https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1719&context=mlr

Further reading[change | change source]

Carpenter, Dale. (2012). Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence V. Texas. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.