social sciences
special features
about glbtq

Advertising Opportunities
Press Kit
Research Guide
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
site guide
search tips
research guide
editors & contributors
contact us
send feedback
write the editor
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter to receive a spotlight on glbtq culture every month.
e-mail address:
Popular Topics in Social Sciences
Stonewall Riots Stonewall Riots
The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.
Gay Liberation Front
Formed soon after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the short-lived but influential Gay Liberation Front brought a new militancy to the movement that became known as gay liberation.
The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980 The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980
The sexual revolution of post-World War II America changed sexual and gender roles profoundly.
Leather Culture
"Leather" is a blanket term for a large array of sexual preferences, identities, relationship structures, and social organizations loosely tied together by the thread of what is conventionally understood as sadomasochistic sex.
Anthony, Susan B. Anthony, Susan B.
Although best known for her crusade for women's suffrage, Susan B. Anthony spoke out on a range of feminist issues.
Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence
With reports from hundreds of sub-Saharan African locales of male-male sexual relations and from about fifty of female-female sexual relations, it is clear that same-sex sexual relations existed in traditional African societies, though varying in forms and in the degree of public acceptance
Androgyny Androgyny
Androgyny, a psychological blending of gender traits, has long been embraced by strong women, soft men, members of queer communities, and others who do not easily fit into traditionally defined gender categories.
A cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe, Russia has a long, rich, and often violent heritage of varied influences and stark confrontations in regard to its patterns of same-sex love.
In Memoriam
In Memoriam: John Geddes Lawrence, Jr. (1943-2011)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/23/11
Last updated on: 12/25/11
Bookmark and Share

John Geddes Lawrence, Jr., the lead plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case that declared sodomy laws unconstitutional, died in Houston on November 20, 2011 of complications from a heart ailment. As lead plaintiff in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), a case that is widely regarded as the most significant legal victory in the history of the gay rights movement, John Geddes Lawrence, Jr. made a crucial contribution to the cause of liberty in the United States.

The case began on September 17, 1998 when police, investigating the false report of a disturbance involving a gun, burst into Lawrence's Houston home and allegedly discovered Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaged in sexual activity. They were arrested and charged with sodomy, a class C misdemeanor in Texas that could have resulted in jail time and a $5,000 fine. The men were held in jail overnight and were each fined $200.

Although they were expected to feel grateful that they had escaped jail time, Lawrence and Garner sought the aid of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in order to appeal their conviction by challenging the constitutionality of the sodomy law.

According to a new book by Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, forthcoming from W.W. Norton in March, Lawrence disputed the testimony of police officers that he and Garner had had sex. As Carpenter writes in a passage quoted in Adam Liptak's New York Times obituary for Lawrence, "If the police did not observe any sex, the whole case is built on law enforcement misconduct that makes it an even more egregious abuse of liberty than the Supreme Court knew."

Whatever actually happened, the arrest infuriated Lawrence and Garner, who died in 2006. Although Lawrence had not been active in the gay rights movement, he determined to seek a measure of justice by challenging the law under which he was arrested.

The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States after the Texas Court of Appeals upheld the law as constitutional.

In a decision handed down on June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court not only declared the Texas law unconstitutional, but also rendered void all the remaining laws throughout the country that criminalized private, consensual homosexual activity.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Souter, and Stevens, wrote in the Lawrence v. Texas decision that gay men and lesbians are "entitled to respect for their private lives. . . . The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Justice O'Connor joined the five-justice majority to declare the Texas statute void in a 6-3 decision.

The Court recognized that what was at issue was not simply the prohibition of a particular sexual act, but liberty itself. Justice Kennedy wrote, "The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons."

Moreover, the Court recognized the stigmatizing effect of sodomy laws and of the 1986 decision that upheld them, Bowers v. Hardwick. Of the latter, Justice Kennedy wrote, "Its continuance as a precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons."

The vote to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick was 5 to 4. "Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today," Justice Kennedy concluded. "Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled." In overruling Bowers v. Hardwick, the Court declared the sodomy laws of 13 states unconstitutional.

The ruling in Lawrence v. Texas has been likened to such seminal Supreme Court decisions as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (which overturned Plessy v. Ferguson and banned school segregation) and Roe v. Wade (which legalized abortion).

By acknowledging the legitimacy of gay and lesbian relationships, Lawrence v. Texas gave the glbtq movement a new credibility in debates about such issues as marriage, partner benefits, adoption, and parental rights.

Lawrence, a native of Kountze, Texas and a U.S. Navy veteran, worked as a medical technologist in Kountze and Houston hospitals until his retirement in 2009.

He is survived by his partner, Jose Garcia, as well as a brother and a sister, nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends.

Related Encyclopedia Entries
browse:   arts   literature   social-sciences   discussion boards
learn more about glbtq       contact us       advertise on glbtq.com
Bookmark and Share

glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2015, glbtq, Inc.

Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.