Surviving Lawrence v. Texas

The lesbian and gay communities have reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas – striking down state sodomy laws on Due Process grounds – with unbridled enthusiasm. Lawrence has variously been praised as an unmitigated victory for lesbian and gay rights, a turning point in our community’s history, and the moment when we have gone from second-class political outcasts to constitutional persons with first-class rights. Obviously, something remarkable happened in Lawrence. In an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court declared that John Geddes Lawrence and Tyrone Gamer, who had been convicted under Texas’s sodomy law making consensual same-sex sexual activity illegal, are no longer sexual criminals. According to Lawrence, homosexuals like Lawrence and Garner are “entitled to respect for their private lives.” Therefore, Lawrence teaches, the State cannot “demean their existence or control their destiny” by making private homosexual sexual conduct a crime. The Constitution affords lesbians and gay men “the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the govemment,” and to engage in that conduct without sacrificing their “dignity as free persons.” After Lawrence, sodomy bans, and not the lesbians and gay men that they had previously made outlaws, are “derelicts on the waters of the law.”