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WASHINGTON — In a dramatic declaration of the rights and status of gays in American society, a 6-3 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Texas same-sex sodomy law on due process grounds. In doing so, the Court took the rare step of sweeping aside a recent precedent: its controversial 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. “Its continuance as precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority in Lawrence v. Texas, No. 02-102. “The Texas statute furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.” Justice Antonin Scalia read from the bench excerpts from an angry dissent that calls the majority opinion “a product of a law-profession culture that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.” Ruth Harlow, legal director of Lambda Legal, who was instrumental in deciding to bring the Lawrence case to the Supreme Court, applauded the ruling as a “transformational” event that ushers in a new era of legal and social acceptance for homosexuals and recognizes “the basic humanity of gay people.” Tony Mauro is Supreme Court correspondent for American Lawyer Media and The Recorder’s Washington, D.C., affiliate Legal Times. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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