Lawrence v. Texas

(2003)

In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court faced a direct challenge to the ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 case in which the Court had upheld as constitutional a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy between consenting adults. The defendant in that case was a gay man who had been convicted under the statute but argued that he had a constitutional right to privacy that extended to private, consensual sexual conduct. Reframing the legal question, the Court rejected the defendant's arguments and stated that the Constitution provided no fundamental right to engage in homosexual acts.

Seventeen years later, in Lawrence v. Texas, two men convicted of illegal sexual intercourse under a Texas statute criminalizing oral and anal sex by consenting same-sex couples argued that the Texas law was unconstitutional for the very reasons rejected by the court in Bowers v. Hardwick. In its decision, the Court took the unusual step of overruling precedent and striking down the Texas...

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Sandra Day O'Connor (Library of Congress)

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