Supreme Court, Then and Now

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June 26, 2012

Where were you, nine years ago today, when the Supreme Court finally held that state laws criminalizing private sexual intimacy among consenting adults were unconstitutional in Lambda Legal’s historic victory, Lawrence v. Texas?

 I was sitting in the gallery with the Lambda Legal lawyers who had brilliantly brought us to this dramatic moment. Our clients John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were home in Texas, waiting to hear whether their courageous stand against injustice had paid off.

Then Justice Kennedy read these stunning words: “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

And with that decision on June 26, 2003, our lives and the law changed forever.  No longer were we to be thought of as criminals.  And the recognition that the nation’s Constitution requires respect for our lives has inspired victory after victory for LGBT students, workers, couples, and parents. 

 The end of the 2012 Supreme Court session this week is bringing other important decisions, and Lambda Legal is continuing to make the case for equality.

 Lambda Legal joined other civil rights groups in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the challenge to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down several odious sections of that law, but left the discriminatory “show your papers” section intact, although subject to further litigation.  LGBT immigrants and LGBT people of color remain particularly vulnerable because this provision requires police to stop and question people based on their appearance --  and we know all too well how easily people who are perceived to look or act “different" can be singled out for harassment and persecution.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.  Lambda Legal authored a brief, joined by 16 national HIV advocacy groups, to explain how important health care reform is in providing adequate care to those living with HIV and stopping the HIV epidemic. We are continuing the fight for the rights of people with HIV at the Supreme Court and in courts across the country.

Today, we have much to celebrate – and many challenges ahead.  We remember the victory in Lawrence v. Texas with pride, and we face the ongoing fight for equality with determination. 

To learn more about Lawrence v. Texas, watch our short documentary Overruled: