John G. Lawrence (l) | Unknown photographer | Public Domain | 14224
John G. Lawrence (pictured left), the man behind the 2003 US Supreme Court case decriminalizing “gay sex” and sodomy, died from complications of a heart condition on Nov. 30th 2011.
In 1998, Lawrence and another man were arrested for having sex in Lawrence’s apartment. Authorities argued the men violated a Texas law prohibiting “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” Lawrence eventually brought his case before the Supreme Court in Lawrence vs Texas, in which a 6-3 decision reversed a 17-year-old precedent which had ruled that there was nothing in the Constitution to stop states from making it a crime for gay men to have consensual sex at home. Justice Anthony Kennedy famously wrote in the 2003 ruling that gay people “are entitled to respect for their private lives,” adding that “the state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”
“He had not been active in the gay rights movement or even out as a gay man to all of his co-workers and family,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, who represented Lawrence as a part of Lambda Legal. “Instead, this was something that happened to him. The police came into his bedroom and put him into the middle of one of the most significant gay rights cases in our time.”