On a night in 1998, police broke into John Lawrence’s apartment in Pasadena, Texas, acting on reports of a man with a gun. Instead they found Lawrence having sex with his boyfriend Tyson Garner. The two men were arrested, held overnight in jail and fined $200.

In a 6-3 decision reached last Thursday, the US Supreme Court declared the arrest -“ and the legislation that made it possible -“ unconstitutional. Under Texas law it was illegal for two men to engage in sodomy. Similar prohibitions existed in 12 other states.

We never chose to be public figures or to take on this fight, but we also never thought we could be arrested this way. We’re glad, not only that this ruling lets us get on with our lives, but that it opens the door for gay people all across the country to be treated equally, John Lawrence told the Houston Chronicle.

The Court last deliberated on the issue in 1986, when it voted 5-4 to uphold Georgia’s provisions against sodomy.

Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct -¦ [The government] cannot demean the existence or control the destiny of gays and lesbians by making their private sexual conduct a crime, wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, as reported in the Boston Globe.

The decision has met with cries of protest from social conservatives, including Scott Lively at the Pro-Family Law Centre in Sacramento.

It knocks down virtually every barrier to promiscuity that has existed in our country -¦ We are designed as heterosexual beings. We are designed to exist in natural families. Society works best when we protect families and erect barriers that protect families from promiscuity, he told the Boston Globe.

One of the dissenting Justices, Antonin Scalia, wrote that legalising sodomy would allow gay activists to contest issues such as same-sex marriage and adoption. He accused the Court of signing on to the so-called homosexual agenda.

This decision dismantles the structure of constitutional law permitting a distinction between homosexual and heterosexual conduct, Scalia wrote, according to the Globe.

There are now moves in the US Senate to amend the constitution to explicitly outlaw gay and lesbian marriages. This movement is led by Tennessee senator Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader. Such an amendment would need to be passed by two-thirds of the US Senate and House, and then ratified by three-quarters of the States.

I very much feel that marriage is a sacrament, and that sacrament should extend and can extend to that legal entity of a union between what traditionally in our Western values has been defined as a man and a woman. So I would support the amendment, Frist told the Washington Post.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is nevertheless optimistic, seeing in the ruling an entirely new chapter in gay and lesbian activism.

This historic civil rights ruling promises real equality to gay people in our relationships, our families and our everyday lives, executive director Kevin M. Cathcart told the Post.

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