Civil Rights Coalition Hails Supreme Court Ruling In Lawrence v. Texas

Media 06.26.03

WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, issued the following statement applauding today’s 6-3 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down as unconstitutional a Texas law that criminalized same-sex private consensual sexual activity.

“Today’s ruling is a tremendous victory in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in America,” said Henderson. “It is a massive turning point in the fight of gay and lesbian Americans to secure true respect and equal treatment under the law, and our entire nation stands to benefit as a result.”

“Today the court paid close attention to America’s civil rights community, civil libertarians, public and mental health organizations, and overwhelming public opinion, which all strongly support the right of consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation, to be left alone in their most intimate affairs,” continued Henderson. “But even more importantly, the court today paid close attention to the words of the Constitution and to the great and noble principles that underlie it.”

“Today’s decision is especially welcome given the fact that it has overruled the court’s 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. No longer can that misguided ruling ? which was even later publicly described as a ‘mistake’ by one of the former Justices who had decided it ? be used to treat gays and lesbians as second-class citizens and strip them of the most basic protections under the law. Bowers has finally wound up in the same ashbin of history as other infamous rulings, such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sandford.

“As the court made clear today, there is simply no rational basis for discrimination against gays and lesbians,” Henderson concluded. “We believe this is true not only with regard to their private consensual sexual activity, but with regard to other important areas such as employment. Today’s decision gives us great hope that the other remaining barriers to full equality for gays and lesbians will ultimately be eliminated.”