Lambda Staff Attorney Cited for Helping Overturn Georgia Sodomy Law

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.

Our Sponsors

Stonewall Bar Association honors Stephen R. Scarborough on Thursday, October 28
October 27, 1999

(ATLANTA, October 27, 1999) -- The Stonewall Bar Association -- the only organization for lesbian and gay legal professionals in Atlanta -- will honor an attorney for his role in helping overturn Georgia's infamous sodomy law, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Wednesday.

On Thursday, October 28, Lambda Staff Attorney Stephen R. Scarborough will receive Stonewall's award for "Outstanding or Longtime Service to the Gay & Lesbian Community" in recognition of his efforts in the landmark case that brought down a despised national symbol of anti-gay hostility and discrimination.

Scarborough said, "It's a real honor to be recognized by colleagues for my part in this effort. I feel privileged to have continued Lambda's longstanding work in the critically important field of sodomy law reform, and gratified that the Georgia Supreme Court ordered the state out of its citizens' bedrooms."

Through Scarborough's efforts, Lambda served as a friend of the court in Powell v. Georgia, attacking the state sodomy law, long used as a rationale for anti-gay discrimination in employment, custody, and other areas.

In one particularly notorious case, the Georgia law prompted the arrest of an Atlanta resident having consensual sex in his bedroom. Michael Hardwick responded by challenging the law all the way to the United States Supreme Court. But, in its notorious 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling, the Court upheld the statute with a decision rife with anti-gay rhetoric and widely considered the lesbian and gay civil rights movement's biggest legal setback.

The state sodomy law made private and consensual oral and anal sex between adults, gay and non-gay, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Scarborough authored Lambda's friend-of-the-court brief in the case. Lambda Regional Director Jane Morrison enlisted Stonewall, the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Georgia Equality Foundation, and the Atlanta Executive Network to join the brief.

In a November 1998 decision that made national headlines, the Georgia High Court agreed with much of Lambda's argument and ruled on state constitutional grounds that the sodomy law violated the right to privacy of Anthony San Juan Powell, a heterosexual man acquitted of rape but convicted of having consensual oral sex with a woman in his home.

James W. Tarlton, IV, partner in the law firm Casaday Tarlton and president of Stonewall said, "We are honoring Steve because he went above and beyond the call of duty -- not only writing the brief but also unifying the amicus team in this case. That unity of purpose was instrumental in toppling the Georgia sodomy law."

Founded in 1993, the Stonewall Bar Association is a voluntary association of almost 200 lesbian, gay, and non- gay attorneys and legal professionals interested in matters of concern to the gay and lesbian community. Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

    WHAT: Stonewall Bar Association annual awards dinner

    WHO: Lambda Staff Attorney Stephen R. Scarborough receives an award for "Outstanding or Longtime Service to the Gay & Lesbian Community" for his efforts to help topple the Georgia sodomy law

    WHERE: The Crown Room, Sheraton Colony Square, 188 14th St. N.E., Atlanta

    WHEN: Thursday, October 28, 6:00 p.m.


CONTACT: Stephen R. Scarborough 404-897-1880 x 23; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 1-888-987-1984 pager


Contact Info

Related Issues: Criminal Justice