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Lawrence V. Texas And The History Of Gay Rights

3139 words - 13 pages

Gay rights have always faced an uphill battle in a country like America, one founded with Puritanical ideals rife with sexual repression. Viewed as sexual deviants and detrimental to society, the LGBT community has fought discrimination long before the acronym for the gay community ever even existed. The public fight for sexual equality goes all the way back to the 1920s, when “The Society for Human Rights in Chicago [became] the country's earliest known gay rights organization” (Infoplease 2013). The Stonewall Riots of 1969 sparked a national fire, depicting for the first time gays quite literally fighting for their right to exist. Then the 70s came, with Harvey Milk first failing in a campaign to become San Francisco’s city supervisor, only to later be appointed to the Board of Permit Appeals, making Milk “the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States.” Milk was assassinated in 1978, but not before serving a vital role in blocking Proposition 6, a proposal that would “fire any teacher or school employee who publicly supports gay rights.” Throughout this rich and varied history of gay civil rights, one important piece of the American government has been missing: the United States Supreme Court. It was not until 1986 in Bowers v. Hardwick that the Court stepped into the ring. Unfortunately the nine Justices entered the foray on the wrong side of history, supporting the legality of anti-sodomy laws and sending a clear message to the public that the gay community would find no friends on the court. That is, until 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, where the Supreme Court acted with a dynamic court view by overruling Bowers v. Hardwick and striking down decades of anti-sodomy law.
The Supreme Court first ruled on the issue of gay rights with Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986. Georgia police were attempting to serve a warrant to Michael Hardwick for carrying an open container of alcohol. When the police arrived at Hardwick’s apartment, one of Hardwick’s houseguests told the officer Hardwick could be found inside his bedroom. The officer proceeded to look inside the bedroom to find Hardwick and another man engaged in oral sex. The two men were arrested for breaking Georgia’s anti-sodomy statute, which prohibited all acts of sodomy, both in heterosexual and homosexual instances. Hardwick and his partner were both arrested for violating this statute (Self 1988). Hardwick proceeded to “[bring] an action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Georgia statute violated his constitutional rights under the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments” (Thornton 1986). In initially, Hardwick’s case was dismissed from the federal district courts on the grounds that Hardwick failed to state a claim. During the appeal, “the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that Georgia's statute was unconstitutional” (Oyez). Finally, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Hardwick, finding that there is no constitutional protection for acts of...

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