WASHINGTON (June 26) - The Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay sex Thursday, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.
The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called deviant sex.
The case is a major reexamination of the rights and acceptance of gay people in the United States. More broadly, it also tests a state's ability to classify as a crime what goes on behind the closed bedroom doors of consenting adults.
Thursday's ruling invalidated a Texas law against ''deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.''
Defending that law, Texas officials said that it promoted the institutions of marriage and family, and argued that communities have the right to choose their own standards.
The law ''demeans the lives of homosexual persons,'' Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.
Laws forbidding homosexual sex, once universal, now are rare. Those on the books are rarely enforced but underpin other kinds of discrimination, lawyers for two Texas men had argued to the court.
The men ''are entitled to respect for their private lives,'' Kennedy wrote.
''The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,'' he said.
Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Kennedy in full. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor agreed with the outcome of the case but not all of Kennedy's rationale.