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These developments came in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law. The law made it a crime for two members of the same gender to engage in various sexual behaviors that are not illegal for heterosexual couples in that state.

Although she joined in the judgment of the court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did not share in the majority's endorsement of a bedroom privacy right. Instead, she said that in her view the Texas law was unconstitutional because it violated equal-protection principles of the 14th Amendment by requiring gay Texans to face criminal penalties for conduct that was not illegal for heterosexual couples.

"A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state's moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class run contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause," she writes in her concurring opinion.

The landmark ruling invalidates similar anti-sodomy laws that apply only to homosexuals in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. It also strikes down anti-sodomy laws in nine other states that criminalize those same sexual acts for both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Those states are: Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Utah, Virginia, Idaho, and Mississippi.

The ruling is consistent with a broad trend among state lawmakers. Roughly a dozen states have repealed anti-sodomy laws since 1986.

In his heated dissent, Justice Scalia predicted the majority opinion lays the foundation for future rulings mandating government recognition of same-sex marriages as well as judicial invalidation of laws banning bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity. "This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation," Scalia says.

The decision stems from the September 1998 arrest of two men, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, for allegedly violating Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law. The law made it a crime to engage in "deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex."

The two men were arrested after a Harris County deputy sheriff, who was responding to a false report of an armed man causing a disturbance, burst into Mr. Lawrence's apartment and saw Lawrence and Mr. Garner engaged in a sex act.

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