Gay rights groups respond to court ruling

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 26 2003 11:00 PM ET

A number of prominent national gay rights organizations were among the first to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down Texas's sodomy law, effectively eliminating sodomy laws in 12 other states as well. Here is some of what they had to say:

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund: "Today the U.S. Supreme Court closed the door on an era of intolerance and ushered in a new era of respect and equal treatment for gay Americans," said Ruth Harlow, legal director for Lambda and lead counsel on the Texas case. "This historic civil rights victory recognizes that love, sexuality, and family play the same role in gay people's lives as they do for everyone else. This ruling effectively strikes down the sodomy laws in every state that still has them, but its impact is even broader. It will be a powerful tool for gay people in all 50 states where we continue fighting to be treated equally." Lambda represented plaintiffs John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence's Houston home and jailed overnight after officers found the men engaged in private, consensual sex in 1998.

The Human Rights Campaign: "This is a historic day for fair-minded Americans everywhere," said HRC
executive director Elizabeth Birch. "We are elated and gratified that the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has seen discriminatory state sodomy laws for what they are--divisive, mean-spirited laws that were designed to single out and marginalize an entire group of Americans for unequal treatment." The 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas makes clear that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, she added.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: "We welcome the decision of the United States Supreme Court striking down the Texas 'Homosexual Conduct Law' that criminalized same-sex private, consensual sexual behavior," said Matt Foreman, executive director for NGLTF. "While this is a victory for individual liberties of all Americans, it is particularly welcome for gay people, who have been singled out for persecution and discrimination by these laws for decades.... The decision is especially sweet for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Following the Supreme Court's infamous 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision (which found that gay and lesbian people had no constitutionally protected right to engage in intimate sexual relations), we launched our Privacy Project, the first national education and advocacy campaign to repeal consensual sodomy laws."

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: "Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Texas's 'homosexual conduct law' and overturn its 1986 ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick marks a turning point in our civil rights movement and a victory for all Americans," said Joan M. Garry, executive director for GLAAD. "Lambda Legal's historic victory in Lawrence v. Texas establishes as a matter of law that gay and lesbian people have a fundamental right to loving relationships free from the threat of invasive intrusion by the state.... In stating that gay and lesbian people 'are entitled to respect for their private lives,' Justice Kennedy's majority opinion today affirms our dignity and humanity in a way we hope others will follow."

The Log Cabin Republicans: "Today's historic victory marks a new chapter for gay and lesbian civil rights in America," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of LCR. "We are one step closer to realizing fairness and equality for gay and lesbian members of the American family. Log Cabin and the Liberty Education Forum were proud to offer a Republican and centrist argument in favor of the overturning of these un-American laws in our amicus brief.... The enormous importance of this law being overturned is that it will not only provide protection for the few who find themselves prosecuted for consensual intimacy but that it also provides protection for those who face discrimination that has been justified by these laws."

The National Stonewall Democrats: "The fight for equality is increasingly shifting to the courts," said Dave Noble, executive director for NSD. "This ruling underscores the need to promote mainstream judicial nominations, since such life-long appointees will make decisions on LGBT rights for the next 30 to 40 years."

The Sevicemembers Legal Defense Network: "Today's Supreme Court decision overturning the Texas sodomy statute may also remove a significant roadblock in repealing the federal sodomy statute and the military's ban on lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members," said SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn. "'Don't ask, don't tell' is a statute banning gays in the military if they do not keep their sexual orientation a secret even from their family. The law is predicated on the notion that prohibition of 'homosexual conduct' is essential to unit cohesion. The military's prohibition of homosexual conduct is rooted in the federal sodomy statute codified as Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The statute applies to both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy.... SLDN will look closely at today's ruling and work with other legal experts to determine what role it may have in tearing down the walls to equality in our armed forces."

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network: "Today's historic ruling affirms the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people before the law and sends a powerful message to LGBT youth," said Kevin Jennings, executive director for GLSEN. "The majority has affirmed that 'the state cannot demean [the] existence or control [the] destiny' of LGBT people with such discriminatory statutes.... By overturning these laws, the United States Supreme Court has put legislators and school administrators on notice that LGBT students and educators are not second-class citizens and there is no justification for qualified educators being fired or students feeling unsafe in school."

The Family Pride Coalition: "Today the Supreme Court ruled for fairness for all Americans," said Aimee Gelnaw, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition. "After years of this antiquated law being applied with prejudice to gay and lesbian Americans, it can no longer serve as an unjust barrier to lesbians and gay men maintaining custody of their own children or becoming foster or adoptive parents." This year the Family Pride Coalition was deeply involved in successful efforts to defeat three antigay foster care and adoption bills in Texas. The sodomy law was used as a reference point in arguments against allowing lesbian and gay Texans the opportunity to serve as foster and adoptive parents.

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