Effects of Sodomy Laws
Courts and legislatures have denied homosexuals child custody and other parental rights
on the presumption of that they violate sodomy laws. Anti-gay activists as well as hostile
legal opponents have charged persons with the crime of sodomy or a willingness to
persist in breaking a law on the books in order to prove their lack of fitness to
have custody over or visiting privileges for their own children.
In the well-publicized 1995 Virginia case, Bottoms v. Bottoms, Sharon Bottoms
lost custody of her son Tyler to her own mother, Pamela Kay Bottoms. Even though
Tylers father had no objections to having Sharon raise their son, Pamela Bottoms
successfully invoked the sodomy laws of Virginia to prevent Sharon Bottoms from raising
her own son. Pamela Bottoms cited the Virginia sodomy law to identify Sharon Bottoms as a
habitual felon under the Virginia sodomy law, using the classification of Sharon Bottoms
as a criminal to further object to the imagined harm that might be done to the boy as a
result of his being raised by a lesbian. The child was placed in Pamela Bottoms
- Sharon Bottoms testified in her defense and for the well being of her child
that Pamela Bottoms home was unfit for a child. Sharon testified that Pamela
Bottoms home had been an abusive place where Pamelas boyfriends would
regularly assault Sharon. Tyler was placed into the same environment. There was no mention
of the fact that the mother had violated the Virginia cohabitation and fornication laws.
An additional irony was lost on the judge: that to keep Tyler from being gay, he was being
placed in the home of a woman with a history of raising a gay child.
Children in foster care are particularly vulnerable to being pulled from their homes if
their parents are homosexual. In Dallas in 1998, a 3-month old boy was removed from the
care of two lesbians on the basis of their criminal status: they are criminals because
they are homosexual. Even though Rebecca Blesdoe, a twelve-year employee of the
agencys Child Protective Services division, was fired for her removal of the child,
the child was not returned to the couple. Blesdoe had filed a grievance with the Texas
Department of Protective and Regulatory Services stating that "homosexual conduct is
against the law in Texas."
Also in 1998, the Arkansas sodomy law was invoked in an attempt to ban homosexuals from
becoming foster parents. Despite a shortage of foster and adoptive homes the Arkansas
Child Welfare Agency Review Board considered a ban on homosexuals from being foster
parents. Originally, board member Robin Woodruff had introduced a proposal to ban singles
and homosexuals from becoming foster parents, but withdrew the challenge against singles
when she learned that it would violate Arkansas law. However, she continued to attack the
fitness of homosexuals to be foster parents based on the sodomy law in that state. Even
though the sodomy law was being contested, she used its presence as part of her argument,
stating that "The state of Arkansas still has sodomy laws on the books. Im
aware that currently is under challenge, but right now thats still the law. So based
on that law, I believe its wrong to place our foster children in a homosexual
The Mississippi sodomy law, proscribing "unnatural intercourse," played a
prominent role in denying custody of a fifteen-year-old boy to his father in Weigand v.
Houghton. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on February 4, 1999 awarded custody of
the boy to his mother despite the dangerous environment of her home. At one point the boy
called 9-1-1 after the step-father had threatened to kill both mother and son.
Justice Charles McRae sharply criticized the 6-3 majority opinion in his dissent
writing: "[t]he chancellor and majority believe a minor is best served by living in
an explosive environment in which the unemployed stepfather is a convicted felon, drinker,
drug-taker, adulterer, wife-beater, and child-threatener, and in which the mother has been
transitory, works two jobs, and has limited time with the child. The chancellor makes such
a decision despite the fact that Pauls father has a good job, a stable home, and
does all within his power to care for his son. The chancellor and majority are blinded by
the fact that Pauls father is gay."
Defining homosexuals as criminals (and often as habitual criminals) is also frequently
used to justify wholesale discrimination in hiring practices. The Dallas Police Department
refused to hire Mica England after she truthfully stated that she is a lesbian. The City
of Dallas was forced in 1993 to rescind the policy and hire Ms. England.
In 1998, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited the Georgia sodomy law
to deny a lesbian recourse to her discriminatory firing. In 1991 Attorney General Michael
Bowers withdrew a job offer as a staff attorney from Robin Joy Shahar when he learned of
her same-sex marriage. Earlier that summer, Shahar and her female partner were married in
a private Jewish religious ceremony.
Shahar sued, but lost as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bowers
victory in May 1998, voting 8-4 that he had not violated any of Shahars rights. The
appeals court said it was reasonable to believe that lesbians who profess to be married to
each other engage in homosexual relations in violation of Georgia law. The US Supreme
Court refused to hear the case.
This same Michael Bowers in 1986 had successfully defended the Georgia sodomy law in
the United States Supreme Court. Later, Bowers was exposed as having a long-time, illegal,
adulterous affair with his secretary. No charges we ever filed against Bowers for the
affair, but it did come to the light as he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Georgia in
1998. In November of 1998, the Georgia sodomy law was found to be unconstitutional under
the state constitution.
In 1997 Wendy Weaver was fired as a volleyball coach in Nebo, Utah, after she told
students that she was a lesbian. Furthermore, she was ordered not to talk about her sexual
orientation while working as a teacher. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf,
claiming her first amendment rights had been violated. The Utah Attorney Generals
Office attempted to have the case dismissed by invoking the Bowers decision,
arguing that "The right to privacy has not been extended to matters involving
homosexual relationships" and there exists no "fundamental right to engage"
in same-sex behavior. State lawyers argued that the Nebo schools decision fell
within its "legitimate interest in maintaining the morale, integrity and public
acceptance of the school system and in minimizing substantial disruption or interference
in the normal activities of the schools..." Nevertheless, the federal court ruled in
November 1998, in Weavers favor awarding her $1500 and lifting the gag order.
The permanent criminal class status created by sodomy laws has also allowed states to
remove or threaten funding for Gay student groups. Gay and Lesbian organizations at
universities in Alabama, Utah and the District of Columbia have had their funding
threatened or cut off.
In Washington, DC in the mid 1980s the Lesbian and Gay Peoples Alliance of The
George Washington Universitya private schoolfaced repeated complaints from an
evangelical Christian student organization which claimed that LGPA promoted illegal acts
under District law and therefore should not receive student funding. Although the funding
was never cut off, LGPA had to face repeated obstacles to funding that other groups did
not face. These challenges ended in 1993 with the reform of the Districts sodomy
In Alabama, the state legislature blocked all funding for gay and lesbian student
organizations at state colleges in 1995. The legislators specifically used the Alabama
sodomy law as justification for discriminating against the student groups.
The law, Section 16-1-28 of the Alabamas Education Code, prohibited "any
college or university from spending public funds or using public facilities ... to
sanction, recognize, or support any group that promotes a lifestyle or actions prohibited
by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws" of Alabama.
A three- judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the law as
an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
Similar legislation has been proposed in Utah.
Sodomy laws are even used to intimidate people testifying in public forums. Rev.
Margarita Sanchez appeared before the Puerto Rico legislature in 1998 to testify on a bill
and was asked if she was a lesbian.
She answered "yes," and a committee member said they could have her arrested
because she was a criminal under the Commonwealths law banning "the crime
Child Custody and Adoption
- About Fairness and My Family - Linda Kaufman in The
Washington Post, March 30, 2003
- Lesbian Wins Virginia Assurances in
Adoption Attempt - August 15, 2002
- Virginia Officials Deny Discrimination in
Adoption Case - June 4, 2002
- Alabama: Chief Justice Says
Homosexuals Unfit as Parents - February 15, 2002
- High Court to Decide If a Boy Can
Have 2 Moms - August 3, 2001
- Will DCFS Become Bedroom Peeper? - March 4, 2000
- Task Force Denounces Arkansas Foster Care Ban -
January 7, 1999
- Letter: Court Is Right; Felons Make
Unfit Parents - August 10, 1998
- Alabama Court Removes Child from Lesbian Mother -
June 26, 1998
- Letter: Homosexual foster parents - January 8, 1998
- One Good Mother To Another - Minnie Bruce Pratt
in The Progressive, November, 1993
- Fighting For Tyler: A Lesbian Loses Her Son - To Her
Own Mother - September 27, 1993
Civil Rights Violations