Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012 Page: 17 of 40
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HEROS, From Previous Page
Lawrence decision by the high court supported
a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
It was a remarkable turn of events sparked by
unremarkable men who apparently had never
entertained any ideas of gay activism prior to
their arrest in Lawrence's Houston-area apart-
ment in 1998 when a sheriff's deputy entered the
apartment to investigate a false crime report.
The deputy claimed he saw the pair engaged
in a sex act rather than the disturbance that was
reported, and he arrested them on deviant sex
Despite the horror of being humiliated, ar-
rested, taken out of the apartment virtually un-
dressed and then jailed, the case had a relatively
quick initial disposition. Lawrence and Garner
paid fines of $125 and court costs of $141.25 for
the Class C misdemeanors while pleading no
Robert R. Eubanks — the also now-deceased
boyfriend of Lawrence who had, in a fit of jeal-
ously, called 911 with the false crime report —
spent two weeks in jail as punishment for his part
in the fiasco.
It was there the story could have taken a much
different turn than it did. But Lawrence and Gar-
ner ultimately decided on a course of action that
the law enforcement authorities who arrested
them probably never dreamed might occur.
The two gay men resisted oppression by fol-
lowing the advice of Lambda Legal attorneys
who wanted to wage a legal battle againstthe an-
tiquated, discriminatory law, which was rarely
At that point Lawrence and Gamer became to
the LGBT community what Rosa Parks repre-
sented to the nation's African-American commu-
nity in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., when she
refused to give up her bus seat to a white passen-
ger. Her civil disobedience against the city regu-
lation sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and
it became a major symbolic force in propelling
the civil rights movement forward.
The Miu't-ss of the Lawrence case had a similar
impact on the nation's LGBT community, and the
gains have been monumental during the past
Although Parks was active in the National As-
sociation for the Advancement of Colored People
as secretary at the time, she was just a seamstress
in a local department store. She lost her job over
the incident and eventually moved to Detroit to
find similar work.
It would be years later before Parks was hon-
ored for her bravery and became known as the
"first lady of the civil rights movement" and the
"mother of the freedom movement." Parks lived
another 50 years and received many honors dur-
ing that time.
The parallel between Lawrence, a white man,
and Garner, a black man, and Parks is their socio-
economic status and ordinariness at the times
they made decisions that would have such far-
reaching effects upon their communities,
Lawrence, who was 68 when he died on Nov.
20,2011, was a medical technologist until his re-
tirement in 2009. His death from a heart condi-
tion apparently went unnoticed for at least a
month by the media, legal advocates and the
LGBT community — until his Houston lawyer,
Mitchell Katine, reportedly tried to invite him to
a commemorative event for the court ruling.
Garner was 39 when he died Sept. 11,2006 of
meningitis. He had been unemployed at the time
of his historic arrest in 1998. But he had worked
at a number of different types of jobs, and he had
a criminal record that included two convictions
for assault in 1995 and 2000.
Both Lawrence and Garner were "quiet, pas-
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WHAT'S BLACK AMD WHITE AND RED ALL OVER?
HERO | John Lawrence was an unlikely activist,
prompted to action after being arrested.
sive" men who preferred to avoid public
scrutiny, according to Katine. Lawrence report-
edly was intimidated because he was still clos-
eted to so many, but his outrage over being taken
to jail in his underwear motivated him to push
forward as one of the faces of the legal challenge.
The pair, who had been occasional sex part-
ners but never lovers, lived out their lives sepa-
rately. Lawrence lived with a partner at the time
of his death, and Garner was being cared for by
his brother when he died.
Eubanks, who introduced Lawrence and Gar-
ner to each other and put everything in motion
by making the false 911 call, was beaten to death
in 2000. The case was never solved.
It probably was more by design on the part of
Lawrence and Garner that their contributions to
the LGBT rights movement have largely gone
uncelebrated during the past eight years, but it
might be a good time to pay them more respect.
After all, they could have easily just paid the
fines and walked back into the obscurity of their
lives rather than stepping into the glare of public
scrutiny and the pages of history. If that had hap-
pened, we might still be where we were when
they were first arrested. ■
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has re-
ported on LGBT issues for three decades. Contact him
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 34, Ed. 1 Friday, January 6, 2012, newspaper, January 6, 2012; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239201/m1/17/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.