Lawrence v. Texas

539 U.S. 558
Brief Filed: 1/03
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Year of Decision: 2003

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 159KB)


Whether a Texas statute that makes sodomy between same-sex couples a crime is constitutional

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (sodomy)


This is an action challenging the constitutionality of a Texas law that makes sodomy between same-sex couples a crime. In this case, the plaintiffs were arrested when a police officer observed them engaging in consensual sexual activity in one of their homes. They were convicted of violating the Homosexual Conduct Statute, which reads: "A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex." The petitioners appealed, and a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth District of Texas initially held that the petitioners' convictions violated the Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution. However, the Fourteenth Court then reheard the case en banc and upheld the statute, reinstating the ban on homosexual sodomy. The case was then appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who refused to hear the case. The defendants then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to have their convictions overturned and the law deemed unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court granted cert. The issues before the Court involve whether there is a legitimate privacy right of homosexuals that is violated by the statute and whether there is a violation of equal protection principles because the law only addresses this conduct between same sex couples.

APA's Position

APA submitted a brief (and the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers and the Texas Chapter of NASW joined in) arguing that the proscribed sexual conduct is a normal part of the intimate relations of Americans and that same-sex sexual conduct is an important part of long-term intimate relationships for many gay men and lesbians. APA's participation in this case is an extension of its involvement as amici in earlier cases that challenge anti-sodomy statutes (including Bowers v. Hardwick, addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986). The brief explains the nature of sexual orientation, noting that homosexuality is common, generally not chosen and is resistant to change, is not a disorder and does not affect one's ability to contribute to society. The brief also argues that suppressing sexual intimacy among same-sex partners would deprive gay men and lesbians of the opportunity to participate in fundamental aspects of human experience. The brief further argues that anti-sodomy statutes like the Texas statute reinforce prejudice, discrimination and violence against gay men and lesbians.


The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, concluded that Texas' "homosexual conduct" law violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and overruled its prior decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which upheld antisodomy laws.