There are a few historic moments for which I remember where I was when I witnessed or heard about them. There's the obvious one I wrote about yesterday, but there are others. For example, I remember where I was when I heard about the Supreme Court's Bowers v. Hardwick decision, upholding Georgia's sodomy law. At the time I was in high school and already out. When I heard about the decision, I basically felt that the Supreme Court had divorced gay Americans from the constitution. (It was shortly after that I stopped standing up for the pledge of allegiance in class.)
I remember where I was, too, when the Lawrence. v. Texas came down, and invalidated the state sodomy laws that hadn't been repealed by 2003. By then I had a husband, and was relieved to hear that we were no longer committing a felony in some states. Strange as it sounds, it made me feel like more of a citizen in the same way the previous decision made me feel like less of one. And it was especially encouraging to me that one of the plaintiffs was an out black gay man. So, I was a bit saddened to hear of Tyrone Garner's passing.
Lambda Legal's Executive Director, Kevin Cathcart, issued the following statement concerning the death of Tyrone Garner, one of the two plaintiffs in Lambda Legal's landmark U. S. Supreme Court victory, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas:
"We extend our heartfelt condolences to Tyrone's family and friends and we join them in mourning his passing.
Because Tyrone Garner and John Lawrence had the courage to challenge homophobic sodomy laws, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that love, sexuality and family play the same role in gay people's lives as they do for everyone else. That's a colossal legacy and one for which his community will forever be thankful."
On June 26, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 with Justice O'Connor concurring with the majority that Texas's "Homosexual Conduct" law was unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. The ruling effectively struck down the sodomy laws in every state that still had them—13 in all. Sodomy laws criminalized oral and anal sex by consenting gay couples and in some states heterosexual couples. They were used almost exclusively to justify widespread discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
Lambda Legal represented John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence's Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false police report found the men engaged in private, consensual sex. Once convicted, they were forced to pay fines and were considered sex offenders in several states before their landmark victory before the Unites States Supreme Court.
A colossal legacy indeed. Anyone who managed to convince the court that sodomy laws "demeans the lives of homosexual persons" deserves recognition and thanks, indeed. Thanks, Tyrone. Peace.