John Geddes Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 55, U.S. Supreme Court 2003.
Facts: In Houston, Texas, police were dispatched to a private residence in response to a reported weapons disturbance. When the police entered the apartment of one of the petitioners, the officers saw the two petitioners, both male, engaging in a sexual act. The sexual act was in violation of Texas law that prohibits deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex. Deviate sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex is a class C misdemeanor in Texas and stays on the violators criminal record.
Procedural History: Harris County Criminal Court found the petitioners guilty. The Court of Appeals for the Texas Fourteenth District affirmed the convictions. Petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court and was granted cert.
Issues: Whether criminal convictions for adult consensual sexual intimacy in the home violate their vital interests in liberty and privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment thus over-ruling Bowers v. Hardwick.
Reasoning: Previous Court decisions have established the right to make decisions regarding sexual conduct extends beyond the marital relationship. It is evident to the Court that these statutes would hinder homosexuals ability to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy because these statutes control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime. The claim in Bowers that proscriptions against that conduct have ancient roots is cast in doubt because the concept of the homosexual as a distinct category of person did not emerge until the late 19th century and laws against sodomy were not enforced against consenting adults acting in private but rather against adults and minors. Since these acts define a homosexual’s personhood and autonomy, they should protected by the Due Process Clause.