2003 June 26

Anti-Sodomy Laws Unconstitutional: “Lawrence v. Texas”


In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court on this day declared unconstitutional the Texas law making sodomy a crime, as well as sodomy laws in 13 other states. The decision reversed the Court’s previous decision, Bowers v. Hardwick (June 30, 1986), which upheld a Georgia sodomy law.

Sodomy is generally defined as anal or oral sex, and sodomy laws have been directed primarily against homosexuals. The term derives from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Book of Genesis (Chapters 18 and 19) of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

By weird coincidence, the Supreme Court’s three key decisions on homosexuality were all decided on June 26th: today’s Lawrence v. Texas, Windsor v. New York (June 26, 2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (June 26, 2015).

The Court: “The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

Read: Dale Carpenter,  Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas: How a Bedroom Arrest Decriminalized Gay Americans (2012)

Learn more about the sodomy cases: David A. J. Richards, The Sodomy Cases (2009)

Learn more about the case at Lambda Legal: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/lawrence-v-texas

Watch a video on the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZWjVh7OdFc

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