The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, November 20
November 20th, 2012
Transgender Day of Remembrance: Everywhere. Today is the day set aside to remember those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the brutal violence endured by the transgender community. TDoR began in reaction to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, who was killed on November 28, 1998. Her murder resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead web site and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Observances for the Transgender Day of Rememberance typically consist of the reading of the names of those who have died because of their gender identity, expression, presentation or perception of gender variance. Observances are being held in cities all around the world. Click here to find an observance near you.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
California Supreme Court Restores Teacher’s Credentials: 1969. In 1967, California’s state Board of Education revoked two lifetime teaching diplomas for Marc. S. Morrison, who had taught high school in the Lowell Joint School District for a “limited, noncriminal, physical relationship which Morrison described as being homosexual in nature” with a fellow teacher. After the Los Angeles Superior Court upheld the Board’s decision, Morrison appealed to the California State Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 that an individual cannot be denied his teaching credentials unless evidence shows that homosexual behavior affected his fitness as an instructor.
John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner Fined $200: 1998. One of the biggest steps toward gay equality, the end of America’s sodomy laws, began on November 17, 1998 when a 911 operator received a call about “a black male going crazy with a gun” at John Geddes Larence’s home in the Houston suburbs. Harris County sheriff’s deputies responded to the call and entered Lawrence’s unlocked apartment. There, they purportedly found Lawrence and Tyron Garner engaging in consensual sex. What they actually found is a matter of contention. Lawrence and Garner weren’t lovers — in fact, that false report had been phoned in by Garner’s actual lover, Robert Eubanks, who suspected Garner and Lawrence of having an affair. One deputy wrote in his report that he saw Garner on the bed “on all fours” on the receiving end of anal sex with Lawrence, and that both were completely naked. Another said that he saw them on the floor, and that Garner wasn’t naked. He wasn’t sure whether he saw them having anal sex or oral sex — two completely different acts which would be very difficult to confuse. “The black guy was giving him head or they was [sic] doing each other from behind. I don’t remember.”
Lawrence and Garner were arrested, held in jail overnight, and charged with violating Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, otherwise known as the Texas “Homosexual Conduct” law, which prohibited engaging “in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.” They both denied having sex that night, but their lawyers, sensing that the case might have the makings of a landmark case, advised them to plead no contest, neither admitting guilt nor protesting innocence. Because they didn’t actually have sex, the lawyers didn’t want to make the case about their innocence. After all, it’s hard to argue that two consenting adults of the same sex have the right to have sexual relations in the privacy of their home when the two adults in question hadn’t actually had sex. And so on November 20, 1998, Lawrence and Garner were convicted of the Class C misdemeanor by a Justice of the Peace in Houston, and were fined $200 each.
And with that, landmark case of Lawrence v. Texas then began to make its way through the court system: to the Texas Criminal Court (which rejected the defense’s request to dismiss the charges), a three-judge panel of the Texas 14th Court of Appeals (which ruled the law unconstitutional), and the full nine-judge panel of the 14th Court of Appeals (which reversed the three-judge panel). The appeals then reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which serves as Texas’s Supreme Court for criminal cases. That court refused to hear the case, which left the lower court’s decision standing. Lawrence vs. Texas was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law, along with similar laws in twelve other states.
In 2011, Dale Carpenter published Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, in which he reconstructed the events leading up to the arrest, initial trial, and the building of a landmark civil rights case, revealing the ironic fact that the case about two men having sex was almost certainly based on a case in which neither man had ever had sex with the other, before that fateful night or since.
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