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The U.S. Supreme Court finally rights a prior wrong, and in Lawrence v. Texas  kicks the state out of the bedrooms of consenting adults, ruling unconstitutional a Texas Sodomy statute and overturning its prior ruling Bowers v. Hardwick, in a decision that will have far reaching consequences and  be of great benefit to all aspects of our fight for equal civil rights.

It's not just about sex.

Oh, you're going to hear that it is, that the "gay agenda" has won the day.  In fact, Justice Scalia, already did say that, accusing the court of "[having] taken sides in the culture war," and "largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda."

His frothing dissent was joined by only Justices Thomas and Rehnquist.

But let me back up.

In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bowers v. Hardwick, ruled that Georgia's sodomy law was valid.  There were differences between that case and this, but the end result was that the Court ruled that it was all right to discriminate against folks because of whom and how they love.

Even then the decision was close, the deciding Justice realizing belatedly the mistake he had made (see "The Brethren," by Bob Woodward).

And now, in Lawrence v. Texas, that decision is acknowledged as wrong, "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today," Justice Kennedy said. "Its continuance as precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons."

In a vote of 6-3 the Court held that Texas couldn't say, "You can't do something we let others do," and by 5-4 that the Bowers decision was wrong, wrong, wrong.  

The ruling was made on the grounds of Privacy rights, as well as  Equal Protection grounds.

Justice O'Connor, who was part of the majority in the Bowers decision said, "A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state's moral disapproval of that class and the conduct association with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause." 

The end result is the same.

No longer can states tell one group of folks that they are restricted from doing something another group is allowed to do, not without a more compelling reason at least than that some others object on purely subjective grounds.

"Liberty and justice for all" will no longer ring hollow --- equal protection under the law will mean just that for gays and lesbians.

And, that is the reason this decision isn't just about sex.

Because the statutory illegality of certain sexual acts has been the basis for other equal rights setbacks, including those relating to child custody, adoption, and discrimination in the workplace.

And the Equal Protection aspect is what will ultimately allow us to prevail in our fight to have our marriages (when we choose to marry) recognized not just by our friends and families, but also by our government.

In Pride,



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Drop a note to Deborah at gaylesissues@rslevinson.com

copyright 1986-2010 Deborah Levinson