Supreme Court overturns 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick Ruling

Log Cabin legal analysis of ruling

June 26, 2003 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited decision in Lawrence v. State of Texas, overturned it's 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, and abolished all sodomy laws in the United States. Six of the nine justices agreed that precedent existed to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, and while Justice Clarence Thomas did not join the majority, he wrote that if he "were a member of the Texas Legislature, [he] would vote to repeal [such laws]."

The amici brief filed by the Log Cabin Republicans and the Liberty Education Forum specifically asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick, arguing that "[t]he Court can no longer deny that the privacy protections generally afforded the American family must necessarily protect too their rights to intimate association without eviscerating the privacy protections for all other American families. All of this demands that the Court re-examine its holding in Bowers and strike down laws such as the Texas law at issue as an unjustified state intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, an assault on the concept of ordered liberty and a violation of the U.S. Constitution." The U.S. Supreme Court agreed.

Upon reading the decision, C. Martin Meekins, Log Cabin Republican and Liberty Education Forum's attorney for their amici brief, who resides in the Los Angeles office of White & Case, said, "The Log Cabin Republicans and Liberty Education Forum should be proud of its first foray in the legal battle of civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans. It is rare indeed in American jurisprudence for the U.S Supreme Court to reverse itself and today the Court expressly did so after just 17 years. This decision is a clear victory. For gay and lesbian Americans, the Court has ruled that states cannot 'demean their existence or control their destiny [by] making their private sexual conduct a crime.' For all Americans, this decision is a victory because it affirms that the promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter. Given the focus of the Log Cabin and Liberty Education Forum amici brief, we are delighted by today's outcome and the basis upon which it was decided."

Meekins added, "Justice Thomas, who has long-held the opinion that the right to privacy does not exist in the U.S. Constitution, predictably voted with the minority. However, it was admirable for Justice Thomas to think this case so important to add a dissent to say that a law such as this is 'uncommonly silly' and that he would vote to repeal such a law if he were a member of the Texas Legislature. This means our amici brief, directly aimed at the more conservative members of the Court, was heard and the court acknowledges that gays and lesbians are equal members of the American family."

Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans and president of the Liberty Education Forum, added, "We are proud that the Supreme Court reversed itself, and did so on the grounds we argued in our amici brief. Liberty for all Americans, both heterosexual and homosexual, is stronger today because of the courage two men in Texas had to fight against legal precedent. We salute Messrs. Lawrence and Garner for that courage, the Lambda Legal Defense Fund for their leadership, our lawyers for their insightful scholarship, and the U.S. Supreme Court for admitting past mistakes. Today will be looked upon as a watershed event for gay and lesbian civil rights."

Liberty Education Forum is a centrist think tank in Washington that offers new perspectives on gay and lesbian issues.