John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested and charge with breaching the Homosexual Conduct law of the state of Texas (FindLaw, 2010). However, prior to the arrest, the police were responding to a weapon disturbance report when they found the two engaging in consensual sexual in Lawrence’s apartment. The Homosexual Conduct law of the state of Texas criminated two same sex persons from engaging in intimate sexual conduct. On the contrary, the fourteenth amendment of the US constitution dictated both the due process and the equal protection right to all (FindLaw, 2010).
Issues before the Court The US Supreme Court was to address three main legal issues during the Lawrence v. Texas case. First, the Supreme Court was to qualify whether the conviction of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner for defying the Homosexual Conduct law of the state of Texas constituted to a violation of the constitutional provisions on equal protection under the law (FindLaw, 2010). This was because the Homosexual Conduct law of Texas deemed sexual intimacy by same sex a crime, but identical behavior by different sex couples was not.
The second issue was on whether convicting the petitioners for the crime of adult consensual intimate sex in their apartment amounted to a violation of their liberty and right to privacy as dictated for by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution (FindLaw, 2010). The third issue for the court was on whether the Bowers v. Hardwick case law should be overruled (Oyez, 2010). Background of the case The case of Lawrence v. Texas was triggered when Houston police entered Lawrence’s apartment in response to a weapon disturbance report on September 17th 1998.
However, when the police entered, they found Lawrence and another adult man, Garner, conducting a private consensual sexual act (FindLaw, 2010). Although according to the provisions of the fourth amendment the police were prohibited from conducting any other search apart from the one for weapon, they arrested John Lawrence and Tyron Garner. Upon their arrest, the two were forced to stay in the jail overnight. The following day, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were charged with violations of the provisions of the Homosexual Conduct law of Texas.
Just to be appreciated here is the fact that the anti-sodomy statute of Texas prohibited any sexual conduct between members of the same sex (Duke Law, 2010). They were later released to call home on a bail of $200 each. Available information indicates that, the petitioners were reined in the states lower courts on the November 20th but did not contest the charges (FindLaw, 2010). The two were found guilty and convicted by Justice of the Peace Mike Parrott of violating the Homosexual Conduct law of Texas (FindLaw, 2010). However, the petitioners revoked their constitutional right to be granted a new trail in the Texas Criminal Court.
On their defense, the petitioners wanted their charges dismissed. This is because; first the charges violated the equal protection provisions of the fourteenth amendment as the Texas state law prohibited only sex between same sex, but not on heterosexual couples (Duke Law, 2010). Just to be noted here is the fact that the provision of equal protection could means that the petitioners were charged on discriminative laws. Another claim by the petitioners was that the act of arresting them was a violation of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment.
The request was however rejected by the criminal court and the petitioners were fined $200 each and an additional $141. 25 for court expenses (Duke Law, 2010). Feeling denied of justice, the two filed an appeal with the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals. Their argument on the equal protection and the right to privacy violations in the case were presented on 4th November 1999 by a three-judge panel of the court. The panel voted 2-1 in favor of the claim that the Texas Homosexual Conduct law was a violation to the Equal Rights Amendment of the state’s constitution (Duke Law, 2010).
In support of the opinion, Anderson and chief justice Paul Murphy asserted that the amendment prohibited any act of discrimination by the state based on color, race, sex, or nationality of origin. This decision by the three-judge panel therefore deemed the Homosexual Conduct law of the state of Texas as unconstitutional. Indeed, the two laws by the state were in material a contradiction to each other, a factor which calls for giving legal prevalence to the civil right provisions of the law. Nevertheless, the full Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals house engaged in a vote to reverse the three-judge panel decision.
In a 7-2 vote, the court upheld the constitutionality of the Texas Homosexual Conduct law, thus rejecting to consider the due process clause and equal right protection arguments by the petitioners (Oyez, 2010). The denial by the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals to dismiss the charges to the petitioners on the basis of its violation of both the due process clause and the equal right protection provisions of the fourteenth amendment prompted them to file a petition for hearing of the case by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (FindLaw, 2010).
Just to note is the fact that this is the highest appellate court in Texas for dealing with criminal matters. The court however, denied the petition for reviewing the case. On July 16th, 2002, a petition was successfully filed with the US Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case on the 2nd of December, 2002 (FindLaw, 2010). The decisions by the lower courts were mainly based on the Supreme Court landmark decision in the Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) case. According to the opinion of the court during this case, the right to sexual liberty recognized only procreative sexual activity.
The court asserted that the historical antipathy towards homosexuality in the American nation was adequate enough to negate the claim for a right to sodomy (Duke Law, 2010). The holding (ruling) of the Court and why The opinion of the Court on the Lawrence v. Texas case was delivered by Justice Kennedy. The Supreme Court held that every individual is entailed, under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, to a constitutional right for sexual privacy in their personal lives (FindLaw, 2010).
The ruling also affirmed that Americans have a constitutional right to equal protection. Therefore, the Texas Homosexual Conduct law was found unconstitutional has it violated both the due process clause and the equal protection provisions of the fourteenth amendment to the American constitution (FindLaw, 2010). The Supreme Court argued that liberty entailed protection of an individual from unwarranted government interferences in their private places. Liberty in totality encompasses numerous aspects of self such the freedom to belief, thought and intimate association.
According to the court’s argument, the decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) did not withstand critical analysis (FindLaw, 2010). The court claimed that by having a majority in a particular state viewing an act by it residents as being immoral did not logically qualify the state to impose a prohibiting law on the practice. From the argument, it was clear that the constitution was to be held superior to all other laws on the land. Therefore, history or traditions could not be claimed to serve as a reason for breaching the provisions of the constitution.
Another argument given to validate the decision was in concern that the petitioners were adult individuals but not kids (Duke Law, 2010). The court claimed that the decision by adult individual to engage in a physical relationship of whatever nature, even when not tailored towards procreation remained a form of liberty under the constitutional provisions of the due process processes of the fourteenth amendment. As an extension of this argument, the court asserted that the same protection should be reflected for individuals involved in consensual intimate choices even when not married.
Based on the above reasoning, the Supreme Court found the case law of Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) as misleading and a contradiction to the fundamental meaning of the due procedure clause of the fourteenth amendment. Therefore, majority of the judges in the Supreme Court held the opinion that the Texas Homosexual Conduct law was indeed, a violation of the due process clause right entailed to the petitioners (Duke Law, 2010). The charges against John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were thus dismissed.
The issue of the constitutional violation of the equal protection right by the Texas Homosexual Conduct law was qualified by a concurring opinion delivered by Justice O’Connor. According to Justice O’Connor, the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment dictated that all persons of similar situational considerations but be treated equally (FindLaw, 2010). Based on this reasoning, any state legislation should be deemed valid only if its classification is reasonably reflective of a legitimate state interest.
According to the tradition of the court, it has always held that unqualified desire tailored towards harming an unpopular minority group cannot amount to a legitimate state interest. Justice O’Connor therefore claimed that, for striking down the Texas Homosexual Conduct law in a rational manner, the provisions for equal protection as dictated for in the fourteenth amendment should be given a critical consideration (FindLaw, 2010).
O’Connor cited the court’s ruling that served to strike down a move by the government to impose prohibitive rules that prevented some households from receiving food stamps. During the case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U. S. 438, 447–455 (1972), the court considered the equal protection clause in sanctioning a law that prohibited distribution of contraceptives to single persons (FindLaw, 2010). Justice O’Connor also cited other court rulings striking state and federal laws based on the equal protection provisions of the fourteenth amendment.
Based on these claims, Justice O’Connor asserted that the issue at hand was consideration of the constitutionality of the Homosexual Conduct law of Texas (FindLaw, 2010). The law simply prohibited sodomy involving same sex partners. On the contrary, this penal code did not term sodomy as a crime when it involved members of opposite sex. This had the implication that Texas State treated this intimate conduct solely based on the parties involved rather than on the immorality considerations on the act.
Based on this reasoning therefore the law was a violation of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. References Duke Law. (2010). Supreme Court: Lawrence v. Texas. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from http://www. law. duke. edu/publiclaw/supremecourtonline/commentary/lawvtex Oyez. (2010). Lawrence and Garner v. Texas. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from http://www. oyez. org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_02_102 FindLaw. (2010). Lawrence et al. V. Texas. Retrieved May 21, 2010, from http://caselaw. lp. findlaw. com/scripts/getcase. pl? court=US&vol=000&invol=02-102