John Geddes Lawrence died on November 20 at the age of 68, gay weekly Metro Weekly reported.

Lawrence was the lead named plaintiff in the landmark 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned state sodomy laws, making gay sex legal in the United States.

Lawrence and his partner, Tyron Garner, found themselves on the wrong side of the law on a September night when a policeman entered their unlocked Houston apartment, his weapon drawn, and found the pair involved in anal sex. The men were arrested that night for violating Texas' anti-sodomy law.

The next day they would begin down a five-year path that would lead them to the steps of the Supreme Court and the decision that altered the course of the gay rights movement forever.

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the court's opinion. “Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”

According to Lawrence's obituary he is survived by his brother, his sister and her husband, two nieces and two nephews.

Tyron Garner died in 2006.