Lambda Legal Mourns Passing of John Lawrence, Courageous American and Lead Defendant in Historic LGBT Rights Case

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"The impact of Lawrence v. Texasis felt every time a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person steps into a courtroom. We honor John for his courage and willingness to represent the community in a watershed moment that has forever changed our march to
December 23, 2011
Kevin M. Cathcart

"John Lawrence was a quiet, unassuming and heroic man, whose courage shaped the LGBT rights movement, and we look back on his accomplishment with profound respect and pride."

(Chicago, IL, December 23, 2011) – Lambda Legal mourns the passing of John Geddes Lawrence, a co-defendant in Lawrence v. Texas, the monumental 2003 Lambda Legal case that overturned all remaining U.S. sodomy laws. Lawrence died on November 20th in Texas. In addition to criminalizing private consensual adult sexual activity, sodomy laws also served as the basis for denying LGBT people equality in other areas of life.

"John Lawrence was a quiet, unassuming and heroic man, whose courage shaped the LGBT rights movement, and we look back on his accomplishment with profound respect and pride," said Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal. "The impact of Lawrence v. Texas is felt every time a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person steps into a courtroom. We honor John for his courage and willingness to represent the community in a watershed moment that has forever changed our march to equality."

In 1998, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner (another heroic man, who passed away in 2006) were arrested in Lawrence's Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men having sex. They were convicted of violating Texas's "Homosexual Conduct Law", which made it a crime for two people of the same sex to have consensual sexual contact. Lambda Legal litigated the case through the Texas court system and eventually to the United States Supreme Court. In a stunning victory, Texas’s "Homosexual Conduct Law", and all remaining state sodomy laws in the country, were found unconstitutional. The decision overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, the 1986 Supreme Court decision that allowed states to criminalize gay sexual activity, and established, for the first time, that lesbians and gay men are entitled to fundamental liberty and privacy rights under the United States Constitution. Courts nationwide have cited Lawrence v. Texas more than 600 times to date, and this decision continues to shape the evolution of LGBT civil rights law.

For more information about the Lawrence v. Texas, visit our case page here: www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/lawrence-v-texas

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Contact Info

Erik Roldan 312-663-4413 ext. 359; Cell: 312-545-8140; Email: eroldan@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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