By Lisa Keen
One of two men who challenged a Texas sodomy law that led to the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003 striking down all laws prohibiting same-sex sexual relations has died.
Tyron Garner, who was arrested with John Lawrence at Lawrence’s home in Houston in 1998 and charged with violating the Texas law against same-sex sodomy, died Sept. 11 of respiratory failure at the Spring Branch Medical Center in Houston following a six-month battle with meningitis. He was 39.
Although Garner’s name is less familiar than that of John Lawrence, whose name leads the legal complaint of Lawrence v. Texas, Katine said Garner had been “very proud to have contributed to the gay and lesbian civil rights movement” and attended a number of speaking engagements about the case.
Katine said it was “just happenstance” that Lawrence’s name was listed first on the legal complaint instead of Garner’s.
Both Garner and Lawrence played relatively low profile roles during the historic litigation, so very little has been recorded about their personal lives and thoughts. Katine said Garner and Lawrence were never partners but were “good friends” and that Garner held several jobs during his life, including home health care provider and restaurant cook.
Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota law professor who interviewed Garner for a book about the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, said Garner had no involvement in the gay civil rights movement or gay group until the arrest.
Katine said Garner’s brother indicated that his family had been very supportive of Tyron during the litigation and during his recent illness. Attempts to reach the family before deadline were unsuccessful.