SCOTUS Case That Overturned a Law Banning Gay Sex
scotus case that overturned a law banning gay sex

SCOTUS Case That Overturned a Law Banning Gay Sex

  • In 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that state laws prohibiting same-sex sexual activity were unconstitutional.
  • The case, Lawrence v. Texas, centered on a law banning sodomy.
  • The ruling was sparked by the 1998 arrest of two gay men in Houston.

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The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the constitutionally protected right to abortion has sparked questions about whether conservative justices will seek to overturn other precedents based on the constitutional right to privacy.

In their 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority argued there was no explicit mention of abortion in the Constitution and that the right to terminate a pregnancy was not enshrined in the 14th Amendment, which asserts that no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said his colleagues “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

“Lawrence” is a reference to the case Lawrence v. Texas. In 2003, the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision invalidating state laws that criminalized same-sex sexual activity, with the liberal-leaning majority at the time ruling that it violated the due-process clause.

That case was sparked by the 1998 arrest of two gay men in Houston. As the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School notes, the men were arrested after a scorned lover called police and falsely reported that there was “a black male going crazy with a gun” inside the apartment of John Geddes Lawrence Jr.

Once police arrived and entered the apartment, they encountered Lawrence and another man, Tyron Garner, engaged in sexual activity. The men were arrested and jailed, freed only after posting $200 bond, The Houston Chronicle reported.

The men were charged and convicted of engaging in “homosexual conduct,” with each fined $125.

The men later appealed the conviction, with a Texas state court ruling in 2000 that laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity violated the state constitution. The state then pressed to have the case reheard before another state court, which upheld the law in 2001, per the Texas State Historical Association — prompting the appeal that brought the case before the US Supreme Court.

The 2003 decision overturning state-level laws against homosexuality is seen as an important precedent that set the stage for the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that required states to recognize same-sex marriages.

Lawrence passed away in 2011.

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