Lawrence v. Texas
The case is about two men who were arrested in 1998 for practicing homosexuality. The Texas law provided that people of the same sex should not engage in deviant sexual behavior. The accused claimed that they had the right to privacy. Texas considers illegal, any contact between the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another, or the penetration of the anus of another person with an object. In 2003, the court ruled that consenting adults had a right to engage in private sexual activities and declared the law, which prohibited sex between same sex couples unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who ruled the case, said that people should not be discriminated against because they were homosexuals. He further added that the right to privacy fell under the due process clause contained in the fourteenth amendment (Spindelman, 1997).
The due process clause protects all personal decisions in relation to procreation, marriage contraception and education among other issues. He overruled the Bower v. Hardwick ruling saying that it violated the right to privacy. He said that the government had no right to be involved in the sexual practices of two consenting adults. The law was applicable when the case involved minors, injured or coerced persons, those who did not consent and public conduct including prostitution. He also called for a separation between moral and legal issues. Not everyone was in favor of the ruling. Justice Scalia was of the opinion that states should be able to make moral judgment regarding homosexuality, which should be constituted as moral statutes. Some saw it as the beginning of deterioration of American family values.
To others the ruling had a political agenda. They find no justification for the ruling. They see it as a gradual process of the Supreme Court majorities to advance their political agendas probably as a means of being favorable with the nation (McGinnis, 2004).A similar case, which came before this, was Bowers v. Hardwick, where a Georgia court held a different opinion. The law saw it criminal for consenting homosexual adults to practice both anal and oral sex but did not consider it as criminal when the same thing was practiced by heterosexuals. Hardwick challenged the law for having violated his right to privacy. The court held that the constitution did not permit the rights of homosexuals to engage in sodomy
Justice White, who delivered the ruling, said that the due process did not consider homosexuality as being a right considered in the due process clause of the constitution. There are still some states that do not recognize the practice of homosexuality among consenting adults who are in the privacy of their homes. However, Justice Blackmun was of the opinion that the state should not interfere with a person’s private freedom (Gruen & Panichas, 1997). White saw homosexuality as immoral and unacceptable. Homosexual sodomy is not a fundamental right nor is it protected by long held tradition. He did not separate morality and law. In Lawrence v. Texas, The ruling shocked many people around the nation and was considered as a landmark.
It was met with great joy and jubilation by those who were fighting for gay and lesbian rights. It was more of a question of liberty other than privacy. Justice Kennedy recognized that the government had no right to intrude on a person’s home or other private home. He said that “freedom extends beyond spatial bounds; liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct” (Haze, 2003). The ruling was seen by some as an opening to other prohibited acts. Senator Rick was of the opinion that if a person was allowed to have gay sex in the confines of his home, then he might as well practice polygamy, bigamy incest and adultery.
There are those who saw homosexuals as being disturbed and they were not allowed to have any sexual rights. Homosexuals have increased since the ruling and they see it as their fundamental right to be who they are. Some people see it as a degradation of morals and an obstacle to those who are of another faith. They see a change in laws governing marriage and religion as well. Many conservative Christian groups were opposed to the ruling while the gay activists welcomed the move saying it was a major step towards human sexual rights.
There have been calls to repress all the efforts regarding gay issues such as their right to marry or get married, their right to have children and the general treatment of fairness and equality the ruling encouraged many people to come out and declare their sexual orientation openly. The gay community wants the recognition of same sex marriages and is also fighting for an involvement in the military. It was also hoped that the ruling would discourage discrimination against youth and children who were of a different orientation sexually such as transsexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals (Gwinn, 2007). In addition to that, the ruling was opposed since many lower court cases had been based upon the Bower v. Hardwick ruling, which had now been overruled.
The Lawrence v. Texas case started a long way off. The plaintiffs started in the Harris county criminal court. Here, they challenged the law as having violated the equal protection clause in the fourteenth amendment. It was rejected and instead they were fined two hundred dollars each and court costs. The court of appeal for the Texas fourteenth district considered their case. Their convictions were affirmed. In their ruling, they considered three questions. First, does the homosexual conduct under the Texas law violate the fourteenth amendment of equal protection law? Secondly, whether the convictions violated the litigants’ liberty and privacy hence violating the due process clause also found in the fourteenth amendment. Finally should the sentence of a similar case, bowers v. Hardwick, be overruled based on the above violation (Supreme Court, 2010).
Another case dealing with the issues of violation of privacy is Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972. The case focused on the right of the unmarried people to have and use contraception as married people do. Massachusetts law did not allow unmarried people to use contraceptives saying that it violated the equal protection clause and was therefore unconstitutional. Contraception could only be distributed by registered doctors and pharmacists who were married. Baird was charged with the distribution of contraceptives, which he did during lectures at the university.
Despite having overturned his conviction under first amendment, the Massachusetts Supreme court affirmed his conviction under the contraceptive distribution law. He filed a petition, which was refused by the court. The court of appeal dismissed the charge saying that the Massachusetts law did not recognize the human rights of unmarried people as stipulated under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Justice William Brennan ruled that the law did not protect public health and there was no rationale behind it. he noted that the government had no right to intrude on a person’s privacy and married and unmarried people could engage in procreative sexual intercourse adding that it was an individual right (Tone, 1997).
The due process is a clause in the fourteenth amendment, which states that the government must respect a person’s legal rights. The constitution promises that the government cannot take away a person’s right to life, liberty or property. Due process gives an idea of what is fair and just. All persons in the United States are protected by it. This is inclusive of aliens and corporations but states do not qualify. There is a difference between the Fifth Amendment clause and the fourteenth amendment. The Fifth Amendment clause is concerned with the federal government and its integration with the bill of rights. It assures fairness such as jury trials, fair hearings, reasonable bails and fines, compensation among others. The fourteenth amendment adds to the Fifth Amendment, but is concerned with the state instead of the federal government (Fruehwald, 2001).
The due process produces accurate results by means of fair procedures. It makes a citizen feel like they belong by giving them a chance. The case of Lawrence v. Texas and Bowers v. Hardwick, the parties felt that they had been discriminated against and yet they were citizens of the United States. The court listened to their case and made a ruling in their favor. By doing this the courts separated issues such as morality, religiosity and personal preferences and feelings with legal issues. In his ruling of Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Kennedy made sure that everyone should be treated equally regarding homosexuality. He did the best thing by overruling the bowers v. Hardwick and this accommodates everyone in the law.
Fruehwald, Edwin. Choice of law for American courts: A Multilateralist method. Issue 100 of Contributions in legal studies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group 2001. Print.
Gruen, Lori and George Panichas. Sex, morality, and the law. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.
Gwinn, Valerie. Note and comment: Locked in the closet: The impact of Lawrence v. Texas on the lives of gay youth in the juvenile justice system. Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy 2007. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
McGinnis, John and Nelson Lund. “Lawrence v. Texas and judicial hubris.” Michigan Law Review. 2008: 4-17. Print.
Spindelman Marc Sodomy Politics in Lawrence v. Texas Jurist Legal Intelligence 2003. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Supreme Court. Opinion of the court. Legal Information Institute, 2003. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.
Tone, Andrea. Controlling reproduction: an American history. New York: Rowman & Littlefield 1997. Print