August 03, 1982 : Sodomy arrest sparks controversy

Introduction

Michael Hardwick is arrested for sodomy after a police officer observes him having sex with another man in his own bedroom in Georgia. Although the district attorney eventually dropped the charges, Hardwick decided to challenge the constitutionality of Georgia’s law.

“John and Mary Doe,” who joined in Hardwick’s suit against Michael Bowers, the attorney general of Georgia, maintained that the Georgia law “chilled and deterred” them from engaging in certain types of sex in their home. But in 1986, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, ruling by a 5-4 vote that states could continue to treat certain types of consensual sex as criminal acts.

Apparently, Justice Byron White had characterized the issue not as the right to privacy in one’s own bedroom, but rather as the right to commit sodomy. Viewed in this narrow manner, it was no surprise that he was unable to find such a clause in the Constitution. Justice Lewis Powell, who also voted to uphold the law, later called his vote a mistake.

In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas law under which two men had been arrested for having consensual sex at home. The 6-3 Lawrence v. Texas decisionreversed the infamous 1986 Bowers decision and finallydealt a death blow tosodomy laws throughout the country.

Article Details:

August 03, 1982 : Sodomy arrest sparks controversy

  • Author

    History.com Staff

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2009

  • Title

    August 03, 1982 : Sodomy arrest sparks controversy

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sodomy-arrest-sparks-controversy

  • Access Date

    November 22, 2017

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks