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Pair proud they could get sodomy law thrown out (Lawrence v. Texas case anniversary)
Houston Chronicle ^ | April 25, 2004, 12:12AM | By PATTY REINERT

Posted on 04/25/2004 12:05:49 AM PDT by weegee

Almost six years after police stormed his apartment and arrested him for having sex with another man, this is what John Lawrence remembers:

Harris County Sheriff's Department officers shoving him to the couch, shattering the porcelain birds that were a gift from his mother. The humiliating ride to the station, wearing only handcuffs and underwear. The fingerprinting and mugshot, the bologna sandwich he ate in jail, the jeans another inmate gave him for the ride home, the cabbie who took him, though he had no wallet to pay.

And the call to his elderly father to tell him what had happened.

"I was a little worried. I didn't know how I was going to handle this," recalled Lawrence, 60. "So I called my dad, and my dad said, `You will find a good lawyer.' "

It has been nearly a year since the U.S. Supreme Court used the case of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner to throw out the nation's remaining sodomy laws, ruling 6-3 that government should stay out of everybody's bedroom.

In an exclusive interview Friday with the Houston Chronicle, their first since the case began, Lawrence and Garner said they are proud to have helped defeat an unjust law, overwhelmed by the support they've received and so glad it's over.

"I got a sense of justice for being wronged by the state of Texas," Lawrence said as he sat with Garner in lawyer Mitchell Katine's office. "I feel I've been vindicated."

Last June's historic ruling dramatically changed the way gay and lesbian people are treated under the law. It also galvanized both sides in an ongoing national debate over whether homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to employment, housing, military service, marriage and adoption.

In the past year, thousands of gay and lesbian couples, who already had been fighting for marriage rights before the Lawrence decision, have lined up outside receptive courthouses for licenses.

But their opponents in statehouses and pulpits, in the courts, on Capitol Hill and at the White House, are pushing back. President Bush has declared his support for a constitutional amendment that would preserve marriage as a strictly heterosexual right, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is writing one.

Looking at his contribution to the gay rights battle, Lawrence, a medical technologist, said he has no regrets.

"Would I have done the same thing again? Yes," he said. "When somebody is wronged and they don't stand up for themselves, they're going to get wronged again. I wasn't going to stand for it."

Garner, 36, who sells barbecue from a street stand, agreed.

"It was worth it," he said.

On Sept. 17, 1998, Garner and his boyfriend, Robert Royce Eubanks, were drinking margaritas and eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant with their friend, Lawrence.

The three had spent the afternoon moving Lawrence's new furniture into his apartment and had planned to move the old stuff to Eubanks' place the next morning.

Back at the apartment after dinner, though, Eubanks and Garner argued. Eubanks left angry, saying he was going to buy a soda. Instead, he went to a pay telephone and called the police, reporting that there was a man with a gun in Lawrence's apartment.

"I think he was jealous," Garner said.

When two Harris County deputies arrived, the door to the apartment was unlocked. They walked in with Eubanks following and discovered Lawrence and Garner having sex.

Lawrence and Garner said they had no idea why they were being arrested. They spent the night in jail.

The charges stemmed from the 1973 Texas Homosexual Conduct Law, which made it a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine, for same-gender couples to have sex, even in private.

At the time, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri had similar laws, and nine other states -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho and Utah -- made sodomy a crime for heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.

"I was totally dumbfounded," Lawrence said.

Eubanks was convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail for filing a false report to a peace officer.

Garner forgave him and continued their relationship; Lawrence couldn't.

The only apology Lawrence ever received came last month from U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who approached him at a dinner where he, Garner and Katine were being honored.

"She said, `I am so very, very sorry for you having to go through this,' " Lawrence said. "I turned to Mitchell, and I said, `That's the first time I've heard that.' "

Immediately after their arrest in 1998, Lawrence and Garner returned to their lives. But Lawrence was stewing.

When Katine, a partner at Houston's Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, and the New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund offered their services for free, Lawrence decided to fight. Garner was reluctant, but he agreed.

"I didn't think we'd win," Garner said. And though his friends and family knew he was gay, he said, "I didn't enjoy being outed with my mugshot on TV. It was degrading to me."

They pleaded no contest in Harris County Criminal Court at Law and were fined $200 each. They took their case to a state appellate court, winning, then losing again. In 2002, four years after the case began, they appealed to the highest court in the land.

Lawrence, who works nights, set his alarm for 9 a.m. the day the court was expected to rule. He flipped on CNN and heard the announcement.

"I bolted out of bed and shouted, `Thank you, God!' " he said.

Katine, meanwhile, heard the news from his mother, who called from Florida. He called Garner.

"I called my brother, and we celebrated with a couple of bottles of champagne," Garner said.

By nightfall, hundreds had gathered for a rally at City Hall. Katine, who had spent years shielding his clients from the media, introduced them to the crowd. People stood in line to meet them.

Today, Lawrence and Garner remain friends and date other people. Neither were activists before their case, and they still aren't. Neither is fond of President Bush. Both support the right of gay people to marry but aren't interested themselves.

"I'm single and love it," Lawrence said.

Garner is touched by people who recognize him at the grocery store or on the street, and Lawrence loves to tell the story of two burly cops, working security outside a gay nightclub, approaching to give them a hug.

Both laugh at the idea of cashing in with a book or a TV movie deal, and they shun comparisons some have made to Jane Roe of abortion rights fame or Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon.

"I don't really want to be a hero," Garner said. "But I want to tell other gay people, `Be who you are, and don't be afraid.' "


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: activistcourts; homosexualagenda; houston; johnlawrence; judicialtyranny; lawrencevtexas; pasadena; privacy; robertroyceeubanks; samesexmarriage; scotus; sodomy; sodomylaws; supremecourt; texas; tyrongarner
Also from the Comical article is this timeline:

GAY MARRIAGE, SODOMY LAW TIMELINE

Sept. 17, 1998

Harris County sheriff's deputies, responding to a report of an armed intruder, burst into the apartment of John Lawrence. The tip is bogus, but deputies find Lawrence having sex with Tyron Garner. The men are handcuffed, taken to jail in their underwear and charged with violating Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law. After spending the night in jail, Lawrence and Garner plead no contest and are fined $200. They appeal.

June 8, 2000

A three-judge panel of the Houston-based 14th Court of Appeals strikes down the sodomy law 2-1. Prosecutors appeal to the entire nine-judge bench.

2000

Vermont allows civil unions for same-sex couples.

2001

Gay and lesbian couples in Massachusetts file state court lawsuit seeking the right to marry.

March 15, 2001

Entire 14th Court of Appeals rules 7-2 to uphold the law. Lawrence and Garner appeal.

April 17, 2002

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court, refuses to hear the case. Lawrence and Garner appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 26, 2002

New Jersey gay couples sue for marriage rights.

Dec. 2, 2002

Supreme Court agrees to hear the case of Lawrence and Garner.

March 26, 2003

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal and Paul Smith, a lawyer with a New York-based gay rights law firm, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, argue the case before the Supreme Court.

May 2003

Gov. Rick Perry signs the Defense of Marriage Act, preventing Texas from recognizing same-sex marriage.

June 26, 2003 Supreme Court rules 6-3 that Texas' law violates the Constitution's privacy guarantee. The decision threw out the nation's remaining sodomy laws. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, says, "It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter." Justice Antonin Scalia dissents and scolds his colleagues, writing, "The court has taken sides in the culture war," and predicts gay marriage will follow. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas join the dissent, but Thomas writes a separate opinion, saying the law is "uncommonly silly" and if he were a member of the Texas Legislature he would vote to repeal it.

July 30, 2003

President Bush, asked his opinion of gay and lesbian people during a White House news conference, said Americans should respect gay people but draw the line at gay marriage. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other, and we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."

Feb. 24, 2004

Bush announces he will back a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a right reserved strictly for heterosexuals. "The preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance," he says.

1 posted on 04/25/2004 12:05:50 AM PDT by weegee
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To: weegee
He neglects to mention that he refused to stop engaging in the act in the presence of the officer even when asked.

The author writes: “…ruling 6-3 that government should stay out of everybody's bedroom” except the government doesn’t stay out of the bedroom. You can’t hire a prostitute (yet you can hire a babysitter or pay someone to mow your yard). You can have sex with a woman but as soon as you pay her for the act it is a crime; so much for the actions of consenting adults.

Last June's historic ruling dramatically changed the way gay and lesbian people are treated under the law. It also galvanized both sides in an ongoing national debate over whether homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals when it comes to employment, housing, military service, marriage and adoption.

Remember this guy who was widely shouted down as spinning tales of fantasy?

Americans must preserve institution of marriage (Sen. Rick Santorum)

The majority of Supreme Court justices may not be willing to admit it, but everyone else seems eager to acknowledge that the greatest near-term consequence of the Lawrence v. Texas anti-sodomy ruling could be the legalization of homosexual marriage. Although the court's majority opinion attempts to distance the ruling from the marriage debate, the dissenting justices say, "Do not believe it."

At least this article discussed Robert Royce Eubanks. This is the first time that the Houston Chronicle has devoted much ink to the third homosexual in this event. Unfortunately it glosses over accounts that Mr. Eubanks was in an abusive relationship with Mr. Garner.

Men whose sodomy case led to Supreme Court ruling keep low profile(Lawrence Garner Texas)

In 2000, the former roommate of Garner who called deputies to the apartment - and was later convicted of filing a false police report - went to court to obtain a protective order against Garner, accusing him of several beatings and a sexual assault.

Garner "punched me on my left eye two times" in January 2000, said Robert Royce Eubanks in an affidavit. Garner also beat Eubanks with a hose in 1999 while "using crack and drinking" and beat him with a belt in 1998, the affidavit said.

In May 1998, Garner "stabbed me on my right ring finger with a box cutter" and "grabbed a hot iron and burned me" and "then sexually assaulted me," Eubanks charged. A temporary protective order was granted, but the case apparently was dropped after Eubanks' lawyer withdrew, saying she could not locate him for a scheduled trial.

In the end, Mr Eubanks was murdered (October 17, 2000) and the case is unsolved. It is unclear when his court date was in relation to his murder.

None of this appears in the Houston Comical’s account and gives the misperception that Mr. Eubanks is still alive and that Mr. Lawrence still holds a grudge against him.

"I bolted out of bed and shouted, `Thank you, God!' " he said.

God loves sinners but does not like it when we sin. The lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah is lost on this one.

2 posted on 04/25/2004 12:09:07 AM PDT by weegee (Maybe Urban Outfitters should sell t-shirts that say "Voting Democrat is for Old Dead People.")
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To: 1riot1ranger; Action-America; Aggie Mama; Alkhin; Allegra; American72; antivenom; Antoninus II; ...
Houston PING
3 posted on 04/25/2004 12:09:56 AM PDT by weegee (Maybe Urban Outfitters should sell t-shirts that say "Voting Democrat is for Old Dead People.")
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To: weegee
Doom on em all............Stay Safe Weegee !
4 posted on 04/25/2004 12:32:27 AM PDT by Squantos (Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.)
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To: weegee
"Garner forgave him and continued their relationship;"

Ohhhhhh........how sweet!

That is soooooo special............
Makes me have a big lump in my throat........

(Not THAT kind of lump!)

5 posted on 04/25/2004 9:59:31 AM PDT by TexasCowboy (COB1)
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To: TexasCowboy
As I point out, they continued their ABUSIVE relationship. Garner allegedly assaulted Eubanks in 2000 shortly before Eubanks was murdered. Why does none of this make the Comical's "Happy Shining People" account?
6 posted on 04/25/2004 10:23:56 AM PDT by weegee (Maybe Urban Outfitters should sell t-shirts that say "Voting Democrat is for Old Dead People.")
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To: weegee
Who thinks this was a set-up from the start..?

In a jurisdiction where they knew they could get a win...
7 posted on 04/25/2004 10:29:07 AM PDT by Mr. K (`,,`,,I stole this cuz its funny,,`,,`))
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To: weegee; aculeus; general_re; hellinahandcart; Thinkin' Gal
Harris County Sheriff's Department officers shoving him to the couch, shattering the porcelain birds that were a gift from his mother.

Nice touch.

8 posted on 04/25/2004 10:30:09 AM PDT by dighton
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To: dighton
I will look for a pair of tiny porcelain violins to send him, to make up for it.
9 posted on 04/25/2004 10:32:50 AM PDT by hellinahandcart
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To: weegee
Proud carrot-grabbers.

Pathetic.

10 posted on 04/25/2004 10:34:29 AM PDT by LibKill (Yep, we are cowboys. WYATT EARP cowboys.)
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To: Mr. K
When the DA was on local talk radio he seemed to indicate that he had no desire to defend the law and certainly seems to have done a lousy job of that. That he claims to be "conservative" is puzzling.
11 posted on 04/25/2004 11:10:52 AM PDT by weegee (Maybe Urban Outfitters should sell t-shirts that say "Voting Democrat is for Old Dead People.")
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