Justice Stevens Wrote the Dissenting Opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick Which Became the Basis for the Majority Opinion in Lawrence v. Texas
(New York, April 9, 2010) - Today, Lambda Legal celebrated the long and distinguished career of Justice John Paul Stevens and what his leadership on civil rights has meant for the gay community.
"The LGBT community owes much to Justice Stevens. He has been a strong, clear, and consistent voice for the rights of gay people and other minorities, the disabled, reproductive freedom, and free speech," said Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal. "Justice Stevens is a true visionary and in recent years has too often had to write in dissent. His dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick was later relied upon by the Supreme Court when it struck down all remaining sodomy laws in Lambda Legal's landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas. We hope Justice Steven's opinions standing up for the rights of the individual will be the guide for future precedent, and that his steadfast commitment to equal rights will be carried on by his successor."
In Lambda Legal's landmark lawsuit, Lawrence v. Texas, the majority opinion concluded that "Justice Stevens' analysis, in our view, should have been controlling in Bowers and should control here. Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."
The Lawrence decision quoted extensively from Justice Stevens' dissent in Bowers, in which he wrote that: "Our prior cases make two propositions abundantly clear. First, the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice; neither history nor tradition could save a law prohibiting miscegenation from constitutional attack. Second, individual decisions by married persons, concerning the intimacies of their physical relationship, even when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of 'liberty' protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, this protection extends to intimate choices by unmarried as well as married persons."
Lambda Legal has urged President Obama to nominate federal justices who adhere to precedents established in cases of importance to the gay community - including the right to privacy, protection against laws based on antigay bias, the right to sue in state courts under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and protections against HIV discrimination, among others. The Administration should promote judicial integrity through nomination of jurists who represent the nation's diversity including people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, people of color, women, and those with public defender and public interest legal backgrounds.