In a landmark decision for the gay rights movement, 2003's Lawrence v. Texas declared unconstitutional a Texas law prohibiting sodomy. The case arose when police, after receiving a tip of a domestic disturbance, arrested two men found engaged in homosexual activity. When the case eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court, the 6-3 decision also struck down similar sodomy laws in 13 other states, thus legalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity in all U.S. states and territories. On behalf of the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy maintained that the right to privacy protected such sexual acts, overruling the Court's previous view that had resulted in the opposite verdict over a similar 1986 case, Bowers v. Hardwick. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that states should be able to legally enforce moral opposition to homosexual conduct. But only two fellow justices backed him, and the case soon became an iconic victory for gay rights activists across the nation.
Date Decided: June 26, 2003
Chief Justice Presiding: William Rehnquist
Dissenting justice Antonin Scalia wrote that states have the right to morally oppose homosexual acts.