Book Review: The Sodomy Cases

TITLE: The Sodomy Cases
SUBTITLE: Bowers v. Hardwick and Lawrence v. Texas AUTHOR: David A. J. Richards PUBLICATION DATE: February 17, 2009
PUBLISHER: University Press of Kansas
PAGE COUNT: 232 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-7006-1636-7 (Cloth)
978-0-7006-1637-4 (Paper)
PRICE: $35.00 (Cloth); $16.95 (Paper)

NYU law professor Richards is a widely published and respected author of academic/crossover books dealing with the law and social issues, such as gay rights and feminism. He focuses on two key Supreme Court cases: the 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy laws and the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas striking down Texas’ anti-sodomy laws and overturning Bowers. He shows how Bowers arose during a period of ongoing interpretative debates over the right to privacy and examines both opinions in light of the Court’s affirmation in Roe v. Wade (1973) of the reproductive rights of an unmarried individual. He then shows that Lawrence must be understood in the context of later privacy rights cases, notably Casey, which overtly reaffirmed Roe, and Romer, which prohibited the selective proscription of antidiscrimination laws, both thereby requiring that Bowers be reconsidered and overturned. Along the way, the author articulates a theory of what he terms the human right of intimate life manifest in the Constitution and its history of judicial interpretation. He traces important currents of political thought which underlay this concept and shaped its trajectory, from Revolutiony ideology, through the Constitutional Convention and its ratification debates, the Civil War amendments and beyond, pointing to slavery’s abrogation of marriage and family rights and to state attempts to proscribe contraception as events which ultimately led the Supreme Court to take seriously gender as a classification arguably as important as race. Recommended for academic, public, and law libraries.

Philip Y. Blue, New York State Supreme Court Criminal Branch Law Library, First Judicial District, New York, New York

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