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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Attorney Ruth Harlow

Aired June 26, 2003 - 10:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Moving right now back to Bob Franken who is outside the Supreme Court talking with the attorney for the two men that the Texas sodomy law is basically looked at all over again today. And we have heard earlier that the Supreme Court issued that ruling that strikes down that sodomy law -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It strikes down sodomy laws, whether they're aimed at homosexuals or aimed at all couples. There are 13 now struck down, five of the justice did that. The other vote of the Justice O'Connor vote that was specifically directed to homosexuals should be shut down.

And the one who argued this case on the side of those who were trying to get it struck down is Ruth Harlow with the Lambda Legal Foundation. You won today.

RUTH HARLOW, LAMBDA LEGAL: We won big. It's a historic day for gay Americans and for all Americans who believe in basic dignity. Because, as you said, what the court said is that all of us as adults have the liberty to choose how we're going to express our love for one another in the privacy of our own bedrooms. And the court had a decision to reverse its mistaken decision in Bowers v. Hardwick just 17 years ago. So it's a great historic day and I'm very proud.

FRANKEN: But let's talk about the dissent from Justice Scalia and the point that he make which is that by doing so, it's negated the legislative right to, in fact, have some control over conduct of people that society might want them to when it comes to sexual conduct, and cause, quote, "a massive disruption."

HARLOW: I think Justice Scalia's arguing about something that's not at stake in this case. And in fact, 82 percent of the American public have already said they don't believe these laws are appropriate.

I think the court is just catching up with American society, which has already recognized gay people's equal liberty, equal humanity. And the court issued a very powerful decision itself recognizing that humanity.

FRANKEN: But let me just present what the other side said. And that was that there is a long recognized right for morality to be one of the basis for law. And they're saying that this has really been undermined by the ruling today.

HARLOW: Well, those folks are in the minority. The majority recognized that that what the Constitution does is stand as a bulwark against any one group imposing its morality or its views on another group.

And so this is a very strong ruling that we all, as individuals, whether gay or straight, have the liberty to choose who we'll love and how we'll do that in the privacy of our own homes. And I think Americans will be celebratory about this courageous ruling.

FRANKEN: Well as you know, concept of gay rights is sort of a concept in transition. And so my question is, what is your organization, which champions gay rights, where will you take this? What's next?

HARLOW: Well, what the court has recognized is gay people's basic humanity, our entitlement to equality and fairness. And what Lambda stands for just that. And what we will continue to do is to fight the other forms of discrimination that, unfortunately, still exist in employment, in parenting and in access to government benefits. And I think this is just a major turning point in terms of the legal systems and society's views about gay people.

FRANKEN: And of course, it is a turning point in the concept of a consensus in the United States, one of the standards that a Supreme Court does use is that a national consensus has changed over time. And in 1986, the ruling was, in effect, the opposite. Now there's a belief which is reflected in the opinions that that consensus has now moved to the fact that sodomy laws should no longer be enforce, overturning a 17-year Supreme Court decision -- Heidi.

COLLINS: CNN's Bob Franken, bringing us the latest on the Supreme Court decisions. Thank you so much, Bob.

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