Posted by: Catherine Lugg | December 23, 2011

John Geddes Lawrence, the Lawrence in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), has died

According to MetroWeekly, Mr. Lawrence died on November 20, 2011.

Lawrence and Tyron Garnder were arrested in 1998, when police burst into Lawrence’s apartment. Instead of finding a man with a gun “going crazy,”* the flustered Harris County deputies found two men engaged in consensual anal sex. Both men were arrested under Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct Law” which banned same-sex consensual sexual behavior. Both men paid a fine of $200 and began litigating their case. The case came before the US Supreme Court in March of 2003, and on June 26, 2003, the US Supreme Court issued it’s landmark decision.

In the 6-3 decision, Justice Kennedy writing for the majority noted that:

“Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they might have been more specific. They did not presume to have this insight,” Kennedy held. “They knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”

The decision explicitly overturned the homophobic monstrosity of Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which had upheld the constitutionality of criminalizing queer identity. Lawrence v. Texas explicitly overturned Bowers.

US queers owe an enormous debt of gratitude to both Lawrence and Garner. They were brave enough to be publicly OUT as queers to litigate their criminal case, thereby leading to the de-criminalization of all US queers. This case laid the ground work to overturn the hated military queer ban, and I hope, eventually, the repeal of “the defense of some marriages act” (DOMA). It remains the most important court cases for queer people in the US.

*This was a false report filed with the police. The neighbor who filed this report was later arrested, pled no contest to the charge, and served 15 days in jail.


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