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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Courts Have No Place in the Bedroom

A pending Supreme Court case brought about by two gay men in Texas is bringing attention to states that maintain their intrusive anti-sodomy laws and strict homophobic beliefs, and illustrates the ridiculousness of certain laws in the United States - "the land of the free."

The two men were arrested in 1998 when a neighbor called the police, claiming that the gay men's apartment was being robbed. When police arrived, they found the men engaged in consensual sex and arrested them. The pair was charged with "deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex," and each was fined $200 plus court fees, according to a March 26, 2003, CNN article.

The vindictive neighbor served only 15 days in jail after pleading no contest to filing a false report.

The defendants' lawyer argued that states should be discriminate against certain behavior simply because the "state dislikes that conduct."

In response, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said, "Almost all laws are based on disapproval of some people or conduct. That's why people regulate."

Rehnquist's evasive response is meaningless, however, when taken in a context greater than the narrow scope of this case. Murder is illegal because it affects more than one person, or even a pair of people. The same holds true for robbery, rape, and other crimes. Consensual sex between adults in the privacy of one's home has no affect on anyone other than the participants.

This case, unfortunately, is not unique. In 1960, all 50 states had sodomy laws. Since then, only 37 states have repealed these laws. Of the 13 states that have maintained the laws, four - Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri - declare "'deviant sexual intercourse,' or oral and anal sex, between same-sex couples," to be illegal, while the others - Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia - make consensual sodomy for all couples illegal, according to CNN.

Sodomy may be defined as any sexual activity not thought to be included in the realm of normal intercourse, including oral and anal sex.

New York's sodomy law was in effect until 1980, when it was struck down by the court in the case of the People v. Onofre, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Arizona did not repeal its law until two years ago.

But even more disturbing than the slow progress of states to discontinue these laws are the punishments that accompany a conviction under them.

In Oklahoma, homosexuals found to be guilty of having sex can face up to 20 years in jail, according to In Kansas, the punishment for the same "crime" is up to six months in jail, accompanied by a $1,000 fine.

In Louisiana, any couple, whether homosexual or heterosexual, found guilty of sodomy faces as many as five years in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Most obscene, however, is the punishment in Idaho, where adult couples engaging in consensual sodomy in the privacy of their homes face up to life in jail for committing a felony.

Like the individual states, countries around the world have similar sodomy laws. In Afghanistan and Sudan, intercourse between homosexuals is punishable by death. While this may seem overly harsh, is there really a difference between life in prison and death?

Surprisingly, most countries around the world have more reasonable standpoints on this issue, out of respect of the privacy of its citizens.

In China, Australia, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and all throughout Europe, it is legal for lesbians and gays to do as they please. Even in Iraq, a country whose political regime the United States is in the process of toppling, sex within same-sex couples is legal, albeit taboo.

If other governments can accept couples outside the traditional scope, why can't ours as well? One would think that the United States has progressed to a point where its citizens and state legislators could accept concepts that were formally rejected out of either fear or misunderstanding. The opposite, unfortunately, is true. Americans continually assert their ignorance and intolerance instead of attempting to learn and accept others.

Outside the court in Texas, a crowd of protestors held signs stating, "AIDS is God's revenge," and other equally brainless messages. It would serve these protestors right to contract the disease through a blood transfusion.

Of the 13 states that continue to uphold their sodomy laws, several - including Texas - are in the process of amending and modernizing their laws pertaining to "sexual deviation." While it is regrettable that it will take at least half a century for all of the states to mature enough to be as accepting as the United States claims to be, at least people are not uncomplainingly ignoring these laws. Each new sodomy case that goes to the courts brings another victory for Americans pursuing freedom. Hopefully, this will soon hold true in Texas as well.



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