The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case that could create a constitutional right to sodomy.
Opponents contend that the ultimate goal of Lawrence v. Texas is not to end sodomy laws, but to advance the “ambitious agenda” of homosexual activists.
Tyron Garner and John Lawrence were arrested for violating Texas sodomy law
“They want a court win to change the definition of marriage, because the real goal is to legalize same-sex ‘marriage,’” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Michael Adams, an attorney and spokesman for the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which brought the case, insists that opponents are overstating the implications.
“For us, the case asks a germane, basic question, which is whether the government has the right to invade the privacy of any citizen in this country,” he said.
Annise Parker, Houston City Council
Nevertheless, Annise Parker, an openly homosexual member of the Houston City Council, sees the case as “one more battle, one more step” for homosexual rights.
“I think there will be a huge celebration if we win it,” she said.
The case is a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision, Bowers v. Hardwick, which said there is no federal constitutional right to practice homosexual sex, known as sodomy.
Lorence charged that homosexual activists “want a win that will lift restrictions on homosexual conduct in the military, to legalize adoption by same sex couples, and to restrict free speech rights of individuals who have faith-based objections to endorsing, funding, or supporting homosexual behavior.”
Lambda’s legal director, Ruth Harlow, says these restrictions are “an affront to equality, invade the most private sphere of adult life and harm gay people in many ways.”
“This is a tremendously important case for gay people and for everyone who believes in basic freedoms,” she said.
Harlow asserts that the state’s power to regulate what happens in a private bedroom is “only the beginning of the damage done by this law and others like it around the country.”
Lorence argues that the plaintiff is asking “the court to convert itself into a national legislature and to determine state policy regarding marriage, family, and sexual conduct outside of marriage.”
“They are asking the court to judge a case that has no court record on which to rule,” he said. “The plaintiffs are asking the court to suddenly declare as unconstitutional certain laws which have existed in unbroken succession since before the founding of the country.”
Lorence believes another reason for supporting sodomy laws is the elevated health risks from the behavior.
Lambda represents John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home Sept. 17, 1998, and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false “weapons disturbance” report found the men engaged in private, consensual sex. The men were fined $200 and now are considered sex offenders in several states, Lambda notes.
The circumstances surrounding the arrest of the two men are suspicious, contends Texas attorney Kelly Shackleford, who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of about 70 Texas state lawmakers.
“This was a setup to do what they want to do,” he said, arguing that the sodomy law is almost never enforced.
Michael Adams, Lambda Legal attorney (photo: Lambdalegal.org)
Adams maintains it was no setup, insisting that Lawrence and Garner are “very private people,” who are not “out in front of any gay pride parade.”
A decision is expected in about two months.