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Historic Supreme Court ruling on sodomy law due soon: demonstrations planned in Pittsburgh and around the nation
06/14/2003
What if police barged into your home and arrested you and your partner for having consensual sex?

That's exactly what happended to John Lawrence and Tyron Garner on on September 17, 1998. They were two adults having consensual sex in the bedroom of John's apartment in Houston. The two men spent the night in jail and are now considered sex offenders in several states. Texas is one of 13 remaining states that still have sodomy laws on the books; in the past 30 years, many states' sodomy laws were either repealed by state legislation or else invalidated by state courts. Pennsylvania's sodomy law was struck down by the PA State Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Bonadio, 415 A.2d 47 (1980).

In 1986 a Georgia sodomy law was challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick. Michael Hardwick was a bartender in a gay bar in Atlanta and targeted for harassment by the police. In 1982 officers were let into Hardwick's apartment to serve a warrant and found him in his bedroom having oral sex with another man. Both were arrested and charged with sodomy. The Court ruled 5-4 against Hardwick, a major milestone in history of queer liberation. Ever since that case, courts and legislators have used the excuse of the Hardwick decision to take children away from same-sex couples, to deny equal access to jobs, housing, public accommodations and more.

Now, 17 years later, the Supreme Court has a chance to revisit the Hardwick decision. The plaintiffs contend that the sodomy law should be struck down not only on privacy grounds, but also because it violates the Equal Protection Clause by permitting sexual intimacy only for heterosexual couples and therefore turns queers into a sexless second class with less rights than other citizens. Texas' District Attorney argues that the law is aimed at protecting marriage, family, and children asserts the state's right to regulate any and all sexual practices, even those taking place behind closed doors and among consenting adults. Recall that earlier this year PA Sentator Santorum defended the Texas sodomy law and argued that homosexual consensual sex "undermine[s] the fabric of our society."

This historic case will affect the rights and lives of LGBT people for years to come. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on either Monday, June 16 or Monday, June 23. Their ruling can go either way.

Protests in Pittsburgh and elsewhere on the day of the decision

Protests are planned in Pittsburgh and at least 15 other cities on the day of decision, whether or not the Court rules in favor of Lawrence and Garner. The Pittsburgh protest will start outside the Pittsburgh office of Santorum (1 Station Square) at 5pm.

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