The Supreme Court
In the Man’s monologue in Laughing Wild he makes critical and upset remarks about the Supreme Court case from 1986 called Bowers v. Hardwick. This case was triggered by a policeman entering the private home of a man in Georgia, by mistake, and finding him and another man having consensual sex, and arresting them both under the often overlooked anti-sodomy laws in Georgia. The court at that time ruled, 5-4, that it was okay for states to criminalize private consensual sex between homosexuals because for many centuries and in many religions, homosexual behavior was condemned. Justice Lewis Powell was the swing vote (the 5th vote) that decided the case; and years later he said he regretted his decision.
On June 27, 2003 the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, 6 to 3, in a case called Lawrence v. Texas. The set-up was almost identical to the Georgia case from 1986, but this time in Texas. A policeman mistakenly entered a private home and found two men engaged in sex, and arrested them. This time, however, the court ruled the Texas law allowing private consensual sex to be criminalized was unconstitutional. And Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today.”
It is very unusual for the Supreme Court to overrule past decisions. Bowers v. Hardwick based much of its reasoning on parts of the Bible. I believe morality evolves (am I allowed to say the word “evolve”?). After all, there are sections of the Bible that approved of slavery (and told slaves to obey their masters). So I was appalled by the Bowers ruling; it felt intuitively very wrong that someone could be arrested for a private, consensual act inside his or her own home.
I am thrilled that the Supreme Court has overturned this.
The present Justices who voted against this were Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas, and the dangerous Antonio Scalia. (Thomas and Scalia are George W. Bush’s two favorite Supreme Court justices, by the way.) Scalia feels states should be able to legislate the majority’s moral feelings; with that legal reasoning, interracial marriage would still not be allowed many states, I believe. Thomas, to my surprise, thought the law was stupid and a waste of police time, but voted with Scalia because he’s a copycat. Just kidding, but he does almost always vote with Scalia. He voted the way he did in this case because he doesn’t believe the constitution protects people’s privacy because the word “privacy” isn’t in the Constitution.
Anyway, I’m thrilled with the decision of Lawrence v. Texas. But the “culture wars” go on…
Christopher Durang, July 14, 2003