Gearing Up For Historic U.S. Supreme Court Arguments In Texas Sodomy Case, Lambda Legal Announces Unprecedented Series of Town Hall Meetings In States Nationwide With Sodomy Laws
(New York, Tuesday, January 7, 2003) — With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear arguments in Lambda Legal’s historic case challenging Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law this Spring, Lambda Legal today announced plans for town hall meetings and other community presentations in states that still have sodomy laws, which typically criminalize oral and anal sex and are widely used to justify discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
The series of community meetings will kick off next Tuesday with a town hall in Birmingham, Alabama, where Lambda Legal is joining co-sponsors Equality Alabama, the Birmingham chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the Alabama chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Other dates, locations and cosponsoring organizations will be announced in the weeks ahead.
“Since the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear our case, there’s been a tremendous amount of interest and energy from LGBT people and straight allies nationwide who want to seize this historic moment with us,” said Hector Vargas, director of Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office. “We’re looking forward to working within communities that are affected by sodomy laws to increase understanding of this case, the many ways sodomy laws hurt gay people, and the need to get rid of these laws once and for all.”
In partnership with a wide range of organizations, Lambda Legal’s town hall meetings and community presentations will run throughout the Winter and Spring. To help educate the public about the harms sodomy laws cause and to empower people to help fight these laws, Lambda Legal is working with community groups in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah.
“In some towns, we’re having small gatherings with a couple of dozen community leaders, while in other areas we’ll have much larger town hall meetings with the general public,” said Lee Taft, director of Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office. “But our work in all of these 13 states is grounded in the same core principle: Sodomy laws are a danger to gay Americans, and together we can eliminate them.”
Sodomy laws are used to justify discrimination against lesbians and gay men people in everyday life; they’re invoked in denying employment to gay people, in refusing custody or visitation for gay parents, and even in intimidating gay people out of exercising their free speech rights. Recent high-profile cases specifically relying at least in part on such laws include: a Mississippi man who was denied custody of his own child; a Georgia woman who was rejected for government employment; a lesbian minister in Puerto Rico who was told not to testify at a legislative hearing; two lesbian foster mothers in Texas whose foster child was taken from their home; and a North Carolina man whose two sons were taken away from him.
In the Supreme Court case against the Texas law, Lambda Legal represents John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence's Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men engaged in private, consensual sex. Once convicted, they were forced to pay fines, are now considered sex offenders in several states and are disqualified from working in dozens of professions. In early December, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments on whether the Texas law violates the federal Constitution's guarantee that laws must protect and apply to people equally, as well as whether it violates the right to privacy. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia’s law banning consensual sodomy did not violate privacy rights. In bringing the Texas case, Lambda Legal asked the justices to reconsider that ruling, which has been used against lesbians and gay men for almost two decades.