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Supreme Court Rejects Ban on Homosexual Acts

Thursday, 26 June 2003 12:00 AM

The court's majority cited the "due process," or fair proceedings, clause of the Constitution.

The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was broad and could have implications for the sexual privacy of all Americans.

The majority ruled that the due-process clause gives homosexuals "the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention." The law "demeans the lives of homosexual persons," Kennedy wrote.

The men "are entitled to respect for their private lives," he said. "The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."

Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissent joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia said the Texas ban did not infringe a "fundamental right."

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," Scalia wrote. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," said Scalia, who insisted he had "nothing against homosexuals."

"This reasoning leaves on shaky, pretty shaky grounds, state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples."

Thomas wrote separately that although he considered the Texas law "uncommonly silly," he found no general right to privacy in the Constitution.

If he were a Texas legislator, he said, he would vote to repeal the law.

"Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources," Thomas wrote.

Texas officials said the law promoted marriage and family, and argued that communities had the right to choose their own standards. Some supporters of the state's case said that invalidating sodomy laws could lead to legalization of same-sex marriage.

Many legal, medical and civil liberties groups joined homosexual groups in supporting the Texas men.

The case is Lawrence vs. Texas, 02-102. It began in 1998 when a when a neighbor with a grudge telephoned police and said that a man was "going crazy" in an apartment. Police entered the apartment and found John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaged in anal sex. They were each fined $200 and spent a night in jail for the misdemeanor sex charge.

Every state had an anti-sodomy law as recently as 1960. Of the 13 that remain, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri prohibit oral and anal sex between people of the same sex. Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia ban sodomy for everyone.

Today's ruling apparently invalidates those laws as well.

Homosexual rights organizations rejoiced at the ruling, which libertarians supported and social conservatives condemned.

"This is historic," said Kate Kendall, executive director of National Center for Lesbian Rights. "There is not a gay person in this country who has not lived their entire life under the yoke of these laws existing somewhere.

"It absolutely signals an entirely changed landscape," she said. "It's impossible to be considered a full and equal citizen if you're a criminal in 13 states." The ruling marks "a cultural change as much as a legal change."

"Apparently they have gone the whole route and fully legitimized sodomy in America," said Scott Lively, director of Pro Family Law Center. "This is going to have terrible consequences for our nation. In essence, the court has said that states cannot regulate harmful sexual conduct."

Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, wrote to NewsMax: "Today’s decision has awakened a sleeping giant and will galvanize and reinvigorate the majority of Americans who believe in traditional marriage but have ignored the radical agenda of the same-sex marriage movement. The goal of the radical homosexual agenda is to eliminate any and all laws regulating consensual sexual conduct. This would mean the elimination of laws banning polygamy as well as those that ban sex between adults and minors.”

Charles Francis, founder of Republican Unity Coalition, which counts former President Gerald Ford and former Sen. Alan Simpson as honorary members, said: "Given previous rulings, it's extraordinary and it's inspiring that the court ruled that gays and lesbians be treated the same as their straight brothers and sisters, no better and no worse. Today's ruling is not a victory for gays nearly so much as a victory for the four words carved in stone on the court house: Equal Justice Under Law."

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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The court's majority cited the "due process," or fair proceedings, clause of the Constitution. The majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was broad and could have implications for the sexual privacy of all Americans. The majority ruled that the...
Thursday, 26 June 2003 12:00 AM
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