Landmark Gay Ruling May Put Bush in Bind

The Supreme Court will decide within the next two weeks one of the most important cases in the history of civil rights for lesbian and gay Americans, reigniting a battle in the Republican Party that President Bush has delicately sought to avoid.

At issue in Lawrence and Garner vs. Texas is a state sodomy law that strikes the most fundamental chords within the GOP and threatens to split two party blocs pivotal to Bush's re-election.

The case involves two gay men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested Sept. 17, 1998, in their home in Harris County, Texas, for having consensual sex after a neighbor falsely reported a "weapons disturbance." Police entered their home, discovered them "engaged in deviate sexual intercourse" and jailed them under the Texas homosexual conduct statute.

A decision for the plaintiffs would -- for the first time -- guarantee equal protection for gays and lesbians under the 14th Amendment, much as Brown vs. Board of Education did for African Americans nearly a half-century ago. Depending on its decision, the court could also guarantee for lesbians and gays a constitutional right to privacy.

Gay Republicans contend that not just equality but the decriminalization of their existence is at stake. Allied with Republican moderates who want to reach out to socially tolerant swing voters, they contend that the case concerns violations of core American values of privacy and equal protection.

Of course, the regular "conservative" Republicans think otherwise. The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story here.