From the New York Times: "A Lawyer's Evolution, Mirroring the Law's"

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June 25, 2013

The New York Times profiles former Lambda Legal board co-chair, Paul M. Smith, who argued our landmark case Lawrence v. Texas before the U.S. Supreme Court 10 years ago:

When the Supreme Court justices announce their decisions in two cases that could reshape marriage in America, few people will be listening more closely than Paul M. Smith, whose life and career have been entwined with the court’s three-decade evolution on gay rights.

As a secretly gay lawyer in the 1980s, Mr. Smith watched in silent disappointment as his former boss, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., joined the majority in a 1986 case that upheld a Georgia sodomy law. Out of the closet by the early 1990s, Mr. Smith went on to successfully argue a 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned sodomy laws in more than a dozen states.

It is that case, Lawrence v. Texas, that many legal experts believe laid the groundwork for the same-sex marriage cases before the court today. Mr. Smith worked on one of several challenges to the law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage. He had also been asked to participate in the other case, about California’s ban on same-sex marriage.


By the early 1990s, [Smith] had come out but was not widely known as a gay advocate, until his work on Lawrence. The case began with an arrest in Houston of two men accused of violating the state’s law against homosexual acts. The lead lawyer on the case, Ruth E. Harlow, had gotten it to the Supreme Court with the help of a team of lawyers from her group, Lambda Legal, and private firms. Then she made a difficult decision to hand off the oral argument to Mr. Smith.

"If I had argued the case I would have been seen as an activist lawyer from a special interest group," explained Ms. Harlow, now a partner in the law firm of Pepper Hamilton. Mr. Smith was well known to the justices and, she said, would be "the living example of a very accomplished, openly gay man."

Read the full article here.

Watch the video below to learn more about our landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, and how it became the foundation for the challenges to DOMA and Prop 8.

Read the blog series, "From Sex to Marriage: How We Got From Lawrence v. Texas to the Cases Against DOMA and Prop 8"

Read more about Lawrence v. Texas here