The Supreme Court today announced its decision to overturn a Texas law that criminalized same-sex sodomy. The Court’s 6-3 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas is broad enough that it will overturn laws in four other states criminalizing homosexual sodomy and nine states that prohibit sodomy among all couples, homosexual and heterosexual. “When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres,” wrote Justice Kennedy for the majority.
This ruling overturns the Supreme Court decision in Bowers v. Harwick, which upheld Georgia’s law prohibiting sodomy because the justices found no “fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy,” according to MSNBC. Justice Scalia in writing the dissent, joined by Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist, took the opportunity to argue that the right to a legal abortion, established by Roe v. Wade, is no more a fundamental right than is the right to same-sex sodomy is. The decision today was based on the constitutional right to privacy, first established in Griswold v. Connecticut, that is also the basis for Roe v. Wade. Justice Thomas filed a separate dissent to emphasize that though he believes the sodomy law is “uncommonly silly,” he believes there is no constitutional “right to privacy.”
The Texas case was initiated in 1998 when a false report of a gunman led two sheriff’s officers to enter a home in Houston, Texas, where they found two men having consensual sex; the officers arrested the men on charges of “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” The men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, appealed the ruling and were rejected at the state appeals court level.