Garner and John Lawrence were arrested in the bedroom of Lawrence’s Houston apartment on September 17, 1998 when Harris County sheriff’s deputies witnessed the two men engaged in anal sex. Authorities maintained that they entered the home while following up on a telephone tip from another dweller in the apartment building, later proved wrong, that an armed intruder was on the premises.
Both Garner and Lawrence were charged with a misdemeanor under the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law.
A challenge to that conviction, argued by Lambda Legal and Houston attorney Mitchell Katine, reached the high court by 2003. On June 26 of that year, the Supreme Court struck down the nation’s sodomy laws, at least as they applied to private, consensual adult sexual conduct.
In recent years, Garner had run a barbecue street stand in Houston. In a 2004 interview with the Houston Chronicle, he reflected on both the humiliation of his arrest and his pride in having fought the case to a brilliantly successful conclusion.
“I didn’t enjoy being outed with my mug shot on TV,” he told the Chronicle. “It was degrading to me… I don’t really want to be a hero. But I want to tell other gay people ‘Be who you are, and don’t be afraid.’”
The Associated Press quoted Lambda Legal’s Mark Roy as saying that during his final battle with meningitis, Garner had been in the care of his brother Darrell.
Tyron Garner was 39.