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Lawrence v. Texas

Citation. 539 U.S. 558, 123 S.Ct. 2472, 156 L.Ed.2d 508 (2003).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs challenged constitutionality of a Texas law prohibiting intimacy between same-sex couples.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Intimate sexual relationships between consenting adults are protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.


IHouston police officers responded to a reported weapons disturbance and entered the Plaintiffs’ apartment. Plaintiffs were engaging in a private, consensual sexual act. Both men were convicted of deviate sexual intercourse under a Texas law which prohibited two persons of the same sex from intimate conduct. Each were fined $200. Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law.


Whether the Texas law prohibiting sexual intimacy between same-sex couples violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Yes. The Texas law prohibiting sexual intimacy between same-sex couples violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Justice Scalia

Many lower courts have relied on Bowers. Emerging awareness does not create a fundamental right. Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions.

Justice Thomas

I write separately to note that the law before the Court today is uncommonly silly. If I were a member of the Texas legislature, I would vote to repeal it. Notwithstanding this, there is no general right of privacy.


Justice O’Connor

I joined Bowers and do not join the Court in overruling the case today. We hare able to decide this case under the Equal Protection Clause, rather than Due Process Clause.


This case turns on whether Lawrence and Garner are free, as adults, to engage in private conduct in exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. They are. The Texas law does not further a legitimate state interest and unjustifiably intrudes into the personal and private life of the individuals.

The historical grounds relied upon in Bowers are more complex than this Court originally indicated. The laws and traditions of the past half century are most relevant and our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code. In turn, Bowers is also overruled.

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