On a September night in Houston, Texas
two men found themselves on the wrong side of the law when a
policeman entered their unlocked apartment, his weapon drawn, and
found the pair involved in anal sex. The couple, John Geddes
Lawrence and Tyron Garner, were arrested that night for violating
Texas' anti-sodomy law. The next day they would begin down a path
that would lead them to the steps of the United States Supreme Court.
There the decision to decriminalize sodomy in Lawrence V. Texas
would alter the course of the GLBT rights movement forever.
The five year battle that started in a
bedroom in Houston, Texas is the focus of a new documentary by the
civil rights group that argued the case to the Supreme Court in 2002.
Overruled! premieres today on the group's website – the
fifth anniversary of Lawrence.
Overruled! tells the story of
the case that brought down all sodomy laws, ending the
criminalization of homosexuality in the United States. The film also
looks at the influence the case has had on subsequent GLBT battles.
“We always knew that Lawrence
was about so much more than sodomy laws – and so much more than
sex,” said Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart in a
The Lawrence decision has played
an important role in deciding a range of cases that involved liberty
Cathcart points out that the California
Supreme Court cited Lawrence several times in its recent
decision legalizing gay marriage. The court cited the case in
rejecting the notion that history and tradition can justify
discrimination, quoting Lawrence's now-familiar line:
“...times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can
see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to
Lawrence was also recently cited
by a federal appeals court panel's decision challenging the
military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that bars gays &
lesbians from serving openly. The panel agreed that based on
Lawrence the military must prove that it has an important
reason for enforcing the ban.
“The lesson here, as we celebrate the
Lawrence anniversary, is that all aspects of individual
liberty and equality relate to each other. And they build upon each
other... We are as much a part of this great nation as anyone else –
and that recognition is perhaps the greatest legacy of Lawrence.”
View the short Overruled! at