Judge Paul Clarence Murphy III, a Republican judge who helped strike down the state’s sodomy law in the case that would become Lawrence v. Texas, has died.
Murphy, who was then chief justice of Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals, was part of a 2-1 majority that ruled in June 2000 that the “homosexual conduct” law violated the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment to the state Constitution, which bars discrimination based on sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. The ruling came nearly two years after the arrests of defendants John Geddes Lawrence Jr. and Tyron Garner in Harris County.
After the full 14th Court of Appeals later overturned the three-judge panel’s decision, the U.S. Supreme Court finally struck down the sodomy law for good in 2003.
The Houston Chronicle reports on Murphy’s death at 81 this week:
The Houston resident was ridiculed by fellow Republicans for voting to overturn the Texas sodomy law and retired about two years before the end of his elected term. He later said the landmark case had nothing to do with his decision to leave after 20 years on the bench.
In June 2000, Murphy and Judge John S. Anderson ruled that the state law banning anal and oral sex between homosexuals violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution because it singles out gays. Judge J. Harvey Hudson dissented.
A week later at its convention in Houston, the Republican Party of Texas vilified Murphy and Anderson in its platform and urged party members to oppose their re-election. The state GOP, which supported the sodomy law and opposed gay rights, issued a “public rebuke” of the two judges.
Of course, Texas’ sodomy law—in the form of Penal Code Chapter 21.06—remains on the books. And, although it no longer explicitly calls for the criminalization of sodomy, the Texas GOP platform now endorses so-called reparative therapy and states that homosexuality “is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”