Keep government out of the bedroom

Your home might be your castle, but your bedroom is the state’s domain. That will be the result if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds its prior precedent in its consideration of Lawrence and Garner v. Texas. Hearing oral arguments for the case today, the Supreme Court is considering whether sexual relations are within the purview of state regulation. With this case, the Supreme Court has the chance to undo its awful precedent and restore equality to Americans’ private lives.

Previously, the Supreme Court has declared sodomy laws constitutional. In Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court held that there was no fundamental right to sodomy, although there was a fundamental right to procreation. Citing historic factors such as the prevalence of sodomy laws at the time of the nation’s founding, the Supreme Court denied homosexual couples the co-equal rights of partnership enjoyed by the rest of the nation. The swing vote in the 5-4 decision, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., later expressed regret at his decision as have many others since.

In the case now before the Supreme Court, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were fined under a Texas statute prohibiting same-sex oral or anal sexual relations. After a neighbor called the police under false pretenses, the police burst into Lawrence’s home and witnessed the couple having sex. Taking the issue to the federal courts, the couple is trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s precedent.

Sodomy laws still exist in thirteen states. Indeed, Minnesota had one very recently until the Minnesota Supreme Court invalidated it in October 2001. Relics of a Quaker past, the laws are rarely enforced and only serve as justification for discrimination. Although it is rare for the Supreme Court to squarely reverse its prior decisions, this should be one of those times.

The court has previously recognized intimacy as an essential catalyst for a successful relationship, acknowledging that sexual relations were fundamental rights predating the Constitution. To deny a couple this freedom is to shackle them to their bedposts, where the state clearly does not belong.