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Sat Jun 26, 2021, 06:54 AM

On this day, June 26, 2003, Lawrence v. Texas was decided.

June 26 is sort of an unofficial Gay Day at the Supreme Court.

Lawrence v. Texas was decided on June 26, 2003.

United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry were decided on June 26, 2013.

Obergefell v. Hodges was decided on June 26, 2015.

Not only that, but on June 26, 1969, patrons of Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn were losing their patience.

Back to Lawrence.

Lawrence v. Texas

Supreme Court of the United States
Argued March 26, 2003
Decided June 26, 2003

This case overturned a previous ruling or rulings
Bowers v. Hardwick (1986)

Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that sanctions of criminal punishment for those who commit sodomy are unconstitutional. The Court reaffirmed the concept of a "right to privacy" that earlier cases, such as Roe v. Wade, had found the U.S. Constitution provides, even though it is not explicitly enumerated. The Court based its ruling on the notions of personal autonomy to define one's own relationships and of American traditions of non-interference with private sexual decisions between consenting adults.

In 1998, John Geddes Lawrence Jr., an older white man, was arrested along with Tyron Garner, a younger black man, at Lawrence's apartment in Harris County, Texas. Garner's former boyfriend had called the police, claiming that there was a man with a weapon in the apartment. Sheriff's deputies said they found the men engaging in sexual intercourse. Lawrence and Garner were charged with a misdemeanor under Texas' anti-sodomy law; both pleaded no contest and received a fine. Assisted by the American civil rights organization Lambda Legal, Lawrence and Garner appealed their sentences to the Texas Courts of Appeals, which ruled in 2000 that the sodomy law was unconstitutional. Texas appealed to have the court rehear the case en banc, and in 2001 it overturned its prior judgment and upheld the law. Lawrence appealed this decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which denied his request for appeal. Lawrence then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear his case.

The Supreme Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas in a 63 decision and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory. The Court, with a five-justice majority, overturned its previous ruling on the same issue in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick, where it upheld a challenged Georgia statute and did not find a constitutional protection of sexual privacy. It explicitly overruled Bowers, holding that it had viewed the liberty interest too narrowly. The Court held that intimate consensual sexual conduct was part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Lawrence invalidated similar laws throughout the United States that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults acting in private, whatever the sex of the participants.

The case attracted much public attention, and many amici curiae ( "friends of the court" ) briefs were filed. Its outcome was celebrated by gay rights advocates, and set the stage for further reconsideration of standing law, including the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) which recognized same-sex marriage as a fundamental right under the United States Constitution.


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