Lawrence v. Texas
539 U.S. 558, 123 S.Ct. 2472, 156 L.Ed.2d 508 (2003)
Lawrence and Garner were a
homosexual couple. Acting on a tip from a neighbor, the police entered
Lawrence's home and found the couple together. They were arrested and
charged with sodomy.
Under Texas law at the time,
homosexual sex was illegal, even if consensual.
Tex. Penal Code Ann.
§21.06(a): "A person commits
an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with a member of
the same sex."
Lawrence and Garner asked that
the case be dismissed on the grounds that the law was unconstitutional
because it only affected homosexual couples. That violated the Equal
Protection Clause and the Due
Process Clause of the 14th
Amendment. In addition, it violated their right to privacy.
The Trial Court found Lawrence
and Garner guilty. They appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The prosecutor appealed.
The Appellate Court en banc
reversed and upheld the conviction. Lawrence and Garner appealed.
The Texas Supreme Court upheld
the conviction. Lawrence and Garner appealed.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and found the Texas law to be unconstitutional.
The US Supreme Court found
that the law violated due process
The Court overruled the
similar case of Bowers v. Hardwick
(478 U.S 186 (1986)), which allowed a similar Statute in Georgia, quoting
the dissent in Bowers:
"The fact that the
governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular
practice as immoral is not sufficient reason for upholding a law
prohibiting the practice...Second, individual decisions by married
persons, concerning the intimacies of their physical relationship, even
when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of 'liberty'
protected by the Due Process Clause
of the 14th Amendment. Moreover, this
protection extends to intimate choices by unmarried as well as married
In a concurrence, it was
argued that the Texas Statute was unconstitutional, but on equal
protection grounds since it only banned
same sex conduct. Laws that ban sodomy between same sex and opposite
couples (like the one in Georgia) should remain constitutional.
"The State cannot single
out one identifiable class of citizens for punishment that does not apply
to everyone else, with moral disapproval as the only asserted State
interest for the law."
In a dissent, it was argued
that the 14th Amendment
only applies to fundamental rights (See Duncan v.
Louisiana (391 U.S. 145 (1968)). If
the Court was not prepared to find that homosexual sodomy is a fundamental
right, they cannot use the Due Process Clause to force States to accept it, nor can they
In addition, the dissent
argued that morality is a legitimate State interest. If the homosexuals
wanted to change people's perception of morality, the proper way to do
that was through legislation, not through the courts.
The dissent suggested that
if homosexual sodomy was allowed, all of the laws affecting sexual mores
(e.g. polygamy) would also be in jeopardy.
However, the Court had
(implicitly) found a fundamental right to intimacy, but that does not extend to a fundamental
right to sexual deviancy.