On Monday the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of Texas’ sodomy law, which makes oral or anal sex between same-sex partners – but not opposite-sex partners – a crime. The first question before the court is whether the law is unconstitutional because it punishes homosexual couples and not heterosexual couples, which will test similar same-sex-only sodomy laws that exist in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. The second constitutional question is whether the law is a violation of the right to privacy, calling into question all sodomy laws. Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia ban consensual sodomy for all couples.
The Texas case, Lawrence v. Texas, began in September 1998, when sheriff department officers entered a private home on a false report of an armed intruder and found two men having sex; they arrested the men and charged them with engaging in homosexual conduct. The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund lawyers who are representing the men argue that in addition to violating their right to privacy, a conviction could prevent the two men from getting certain jobs and they would be required to register as sex offenders in certain states. Ruth E. Harlow, Lambda LDEF Legal Director, told the Associated Press, “The idea that a state may enter into American bedrooms and closely inspect the most intimate and private physical interactions is a stark affront to fundamental liberty that the court should end.”
If the Supreme Court decides the right to privacy argument in favor of the plaintiffs and rules that all sodomy laws are unconstitutional, that ruling will strengthen the right to privacy in general, which in turn will help protect the right to reproductive freedom.