Citation: 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
One-Sentence Takeaway: Intimate sexual relationships between consenting adults are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Summary: While responding to a weapons disturbance call, the officers witnessed two men (Lawrence and Garner) engaged in consensual intimate sexual activity. They were convicted under a Texas statute which made it unlawful for two persons of same sex to engage in sodomy.
The U.S. Supreme Court, it a 6-3 decision, overturned the convictions and held that the Texas statue was unconstitutional and violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In so holding, the Court overruled its prior ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick.
The Court reasoned that the real issue was not whether sodomy was protected under the Constitution. Instead, the underlying issue facing the Court was whether two consenting adults were free to engage in sexual relation in the privacy of their home. The Court held that, “[t]heir right to liberty under the Due Process Clause [gave] them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government . . . [and] . . . [t]he Texas statute further[ed] no legitimate state interest which [could] justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.”