United States: IGLHRC Comments on Texas Sodomy Law Decision

June 23, 2003 San Francisco, CA, USA

For additional information, please contact:
Paula Ettelbrick (San Francisco): +1-415-561-0633 or +1-917-612-3126

Comment by Paula L. Ettelbrick, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission putting Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, the upcoming Texas sodomy law decision, into an international context:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission anticipates a ruling from the United States Supreme Court this week that would strike down the Texas 'homosexual conduct law.' This decision would finally bring the United States into line with the majority of countries around the world that do not criminalize same-sex sexual conduct. The decision would also put the United States into compliance with well-established obligations under international law. It's about time that the U.S. follow the global trend toward respecting the human rights of those whose sexuality is simply different from prevailing social norms and customs.

According to IGLHRC:

  • The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a ruling in 1994 in Toonen v. Australia, that struck down the Tasmanian sodomy law on the grounds that it violated privacy and equality provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Human Rights Committee is the treaty body for this covenant and is charged with enforcing its provisions. Its rulings are the ultimate interpretation of this international covenant. The United States ratified the ICCPR in 1976.
  • In data compiled in 2003, IGLHRC found that only 77 countries in the world maintain enforceable sodomy laws.
  • Enforceable sodomy laws exist in only two countries in Central and South America: Guyana and Nicaragua.
  • The European Union requires countries to repeal their sodomy laws as a condition of admittance.
  • In one of the broadest-reaching gay rights decisions in the world, the South African Constitutional Court ruled in 1998 that the country's sodomy laws offend the dignity and human rights of its citizens.
  • The Constitutions of South Africa and Ecuador explicitly bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


Paula L. Ettelbrick is a lawyer and adjunct professor of law at the University of Michigan and New York University Law Schools. Her 1986-1993 tenure at Lambda Legal Defense as a staff attorney and legal director coincided with the issuance of the Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick. She was intimately involved in developing the constitutional and litigation strategies of the post-Hardwick era.

The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.


International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
1375 Sutter Street., Suite 222 * San Francisco, CA 94109 * USA
T: +1-415-561-0633
F: +1-415-561-0619
E: iglhrc@iglhrc.org
W: http://www.iglhrc.org