The Law School Authority

Lawrence v. Texas Case Brief

Summary of Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. ,123 S.Ct. 2472 (2003)

Facts: Houston police responded to the Petitioner’s address mistakenly after receiving a weapons disturbance call.  They saw the petitioner and another adult male engaged in consensual sex.  Both were arrested and charged with “deviate sexual intercourse.” State law prohibits person of the same sex from engaging in “deviate sexual intercourse,” and defines the crime as any contact w/ genitals of one and mouth of another, or penetration of genitals or anus of one w/ object.

Issue(s): Whether the DP or Equal Protection Clauses provide constitutional protection for homosexual activity within the sanctity of the individuals’ homes?

Holding: Individuals are entitled to constitutional protection, under the DP Cl, in their personal lives for sexual privacy.  States cannot minimize or control their destiny by criminalizing private sexual conduct.

Procedure: Pets were convicted;  Texas Ct of Appeal rejected and upheld convictions citing Bowers as controlling.  U.S. S. Ct. Reversed.

Rule(s): 14th

Rationale: The TX statute applies only to participants of the same sex.  The criminal penalties and purposes of this law has far reaching effects in the most private of places–the home.  As a general rule states should not define the meaning of the relationship or to set boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects. Adults may choose to enter such a relationship as here, within their homes, and retain their dignity as free people.  The liberty protected by the Const allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.

There is no need to discuss the history and traditions of this nation regarding homosexual relationships b/c it wasn’t until the 1970′s that states began to criminalize that conduct.   Hx is a starting point, but not the ending point.  UK recommended repealing laws against homosexual activity in 1957.  Of the 25 states that prohibited the relevant conduct, only 13 currently have such laws, and only 4 enforce them.   The right the Pets seek has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom in many other countries.

Individual decisions concerning the intimacies of their relationship are a form of liberty, whether engaged by married or unmarried people.

Pets are entitled to respect for their private lives. TX cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual lives a crime. The TX statute furthers no legitimate state interest b/c immorality is not a sufficient basis for prohibiting a practice.

DISSENT: The majority failed to declare homosexual sodomy a fundamental right and therefore strict scrutiny does not apply, but the majority then applies a form of rationality review.  Yet, the majority ignores stare decisis upholding state laws based on morality as rational bases for regulation; i.e. public indecency; bigamy, adult incest; prostitution; adultery; etc. The impossibility of distinguishing homosexuality from other traditional moral offenses is precisely why Bowers rejected the rational basis challenge.



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