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Supreme Court Strike Down Texas Sodomy Law

Aired June 26, 2003 - 10:09   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN correspondent Bob Franken is standing by with news from the Supreme Court about the Texas sodomy law. Bob, what can you tell us?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well that the justices have overturned the Texas sodomy law which made it illegal for homosexuals to engage in homosexual acts. The background on this case had to do with the arrest in 1998 of two men who were caught in the act in their bedroom when police were coming in to investigate false report of a burglary. In any case, I'm reading the decision right now.

But it seems to be in this decision right now, but it seems to be in this decision not only a repudiation of the Texas act, but brings into question all anti-sodomy acts. Thirteen states still have them ever since a ruling in 1986 in Georgia. They have overruled this law, citing due process.

So the question now is, is this a question that is going to negate all of the sodomy acts, or is it one that only is the one aimed at homosexuals? It's going to take a little bit of reading. Of course, Heidi, we're going to be doing that as we're talking.

But in any case, the Texas law has been overturned. It's been a very, very interesting argument, one of the primary arguments of this year's Supreme Court term.


FRANKEN (voice-over): The question, how the Supreme Court would define the right to privacy in the home. Would it affirm or overturn its own 1986 ruling, which upheld the Georgia law banning sodomy altogether? Or would the justices limit their new decision to the Texas statute, that only bans sodomy between homosexuals?

In 1998, two Houston men were arrested, briefly jailed and fined $200 when they were caught in a sexual act by police who crashed into their bedroom, investigating what turned out to be a false burglary report.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stop. But that's all I have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like my civil rights was (sic) violated, and I wasn't doing anything wrong.

FRANKEN: Three other states have laws similar to Texas while a total of 13 still ban sodomy in all forms. A Texas appeals court said the law's purpose was protecting public morals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government has a legitimate interest in helping to preserve not only public health, but public morals as well.

FRANKEN: The fierce controversy spread across the street to the Capitol, when the Senate's third-ranking Republican, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania threw fuel on the fire with his comments on the case.

"If," said Santorum, "the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual gay sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right adultery, you have the right to anything."


FRANKEN: And now, the court has ruled -- it's a sweeping ruling, by the way, it's 6-3 decision. And it was authored by Justice Kennedy who is oftentimes on the conservative side. It says, "The petioner's right to liberty under the due process clause gives them the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention."

So that is the ruling that overturns the Texas statute and would seem to call into question sodomy statutes in the 13 states that still have them around the country -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Bob Franken, thanks so much. Outside the Supreme Court.

Also, someone else that is speaking right now, Reverend Rob Schenck who represents the National Clergy Council on this matter. We want to go ahead listen in for just a moment to him.


REV. RON SCHENCK: The court has said today that morality, matters of right and wrong behavior, do not matter in the law. That is an undermining of our concept of justice in this country. We base our laws on concepts of right and wrong human behavior.

In the case out of Texas, it was not a matter of invasion of privacy. The facts of the case do not indicate that the police went into an apartment to arrest two individuals engaged in homosexual intercourse. That is not the facts of this case.

The facts of this case are that the police entered an apartment on report of an individual who had a weapon. When they entered the apartment, they found two individuals engaged in an illegal act and they made an arrest which is what they swear to do. When a police officer is told that the concepts of right and wrong that inform the law no longer matter, it demoralizes not only the law enforcement officials, but it demoralizes the culture.

The fact is that homosexual behavior is immoral. It is wrong. And what the court has said today is that right and wrong, morality versus immorality, no longer matters in the law. That is wrong, and it undermines our concept of justice, and it demoralizes our culture.

With me is Mr. Bernard Reese, R-E-E-S-E, who is legal council for the National Clergy Council on matters of constitutional law, 50 years an attorney...

COLLINS: All right, we have been listening to Reverend Rob Schenck. He represents the National Clergy council, giving his views on what he thinks about the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Texas anti-sodomy law. This is just happened moments ago.


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