Texas Court Upholds Conviction of Two Men for Consensual Sex at Home
(NEW YORK, March 15, 2000) — A Texas Court of Appeals Thursday overturned a ruling that had found the state’s “Homosexual Conduct” law unconstitutional, in a case involving the prosecution of two Houston men accused of having sex in the privacy of one man’s home.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said it will continue its defense of the two men and pursue its challenge to Texas’ criminal ban on sexual relations between people of the same sex.
With a teleconference at 2 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 15, Lambda Legal Director Ruth E. Harlow and Lambda Cooperating Attorney Mitchell Katine of the Houston law firm Williams, Birnberg & Anderson will discuss the ruling.
The case began September 17, 1998, when sheriff’s deputies, responding to a false report of an armed intruder, entered a private Houston apartment where they found the pair having sex.
Both men were arrested and jailed for over 24 hours before being released on $200 bond each. A county criminal court convicted John Lawrence and Tyron Garner of a Class C misdemeanor, which carries up to a $500 fine. Lambda appealed on their behalf.
“The government does not belong in people’s bedrooms to police consensual adult intimacy, nor can it have one rule for gay people and another one, granting more freedom, for non-gay people,” Harlow said.
“Contrary to this decision, the courts’ role is to protect individual liberties when the legislature and prosecutors have overstepped,” she said, noting that Lambda would petition for review in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Last June, a panel of the appeals court held that the statute violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution because it punished only certain couples for oral or anal sex without adequate justification. Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860, but decriminalized such activities by different-sex partners in 1974.
On motion by the state, the entire Fourteenth Court of Appeals reheard the case.
Texas now is one of only four states, along with Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, that prohibit consensual sex acts between same-sex partners only. Lambda recently argued its legal challenge to the Arkansas law, Picado v. Jegley. Twelve other states still prohibit consensual oral and anal sex between different- and same-sex partners alike, despite the nationwide trend toward abolishing such invasive criminal laws.
Headquarter in New York, with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, Lambda will open an office in Dallas in 2002.
WHAT: Teleconference to discuss a court ruling to uphold the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” Law WHO: Lambda Legal Director Ruth E. Harlow and Cooperating Attorney Mitchell Katine of the Houston law firm Williams, Birnberg & Anderson WHEN: Thursday, March 15, 2:00 - 2:45 p.m. CDT HOW: Call 913-661-0962; at the prompt, enter pass code 4020; please RSVP to Lambda at 212-809-8585 if you are interested in participating in the conference call
CONTACT: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)
Ruth E. Harlow 212-809-8585 x 210
Mitchell Katine 713-981-9595