Equality Mississippi Submits Amicus Brief in Historic U.S. Supreme Court Case
Brought By Lambda Legal
Cites Mississippi Case as Proof How the Mississippi Sodomy Law is Used
to Discriminate Against Gay and Lesbian Mississippians
For Immediate Release, January 16, 2003
Contact: Jody Renaldo; Executive Director
Jackson, MS—Equality Mississippi, Mississippi’s
statewide gay and lesbian civil rights organization, has submitted an amicus
brief as part of a case that the U.S. Supreme court will hear regarding the
Texas sodomy law.
The case, brought by national gay and lesbian legal organization Lambda
Legal, challenges the constitutionality of Texas’s "Homosexual
Conduct" law, which criminalizes oral and anal sex by consenting gay
couples and is used widely to justify discrimination against lesbians and gay
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in this matter could also affect sodomy
laws in 12 other states including Mississippi.
Mississippi’s sodomy law (Chapter 29, SS 97-29-59) applies to both
heterosexuals and homosexuals and refers to sodomy as "unnatural
intercourse". The law makes it a felony for consenting adults to have
oral or anal sex and provides for up to 10 years in prison.
In one case where the sodomy law was invoked, a Mississippi man was denied
custody of his own child based on the presumption that since he was gay, he
was in violation of the state’s sodomy law. The Mississippi Supreme Court
felt that the child would be better served in an abusive home with his mother
and step-father, rather than living with the child’s financially secure gay
In early 1994, residents in Ovett, Mississippi circulated petitions as part
of their stance against a lesbian couple—Brenda and Wanda Henson—buying
land and building a camp ground, to urge the enforcement of the Mississippi
sodomy law. This was aimed at gay and lesbian people, but the Mississippi law
is neutral both as to gender and marital status, so the anti-gay people
unwittingly were urging prosecution of themselves.
The camp, Camp Sister Spirit, is still there.
Said Equality Mississippi executive director Jody Renaldo, "I know
that even in conservative Mississippi, Christian couples and Mississippi
lawmakers go to bed nightly and break the Mississippi sodomy law, thereby
making them felons. If Mississippians knew that Mississippi law polices what
they do in their own beds, they would be outraged. We find often that most
Mississippians do not even know this law exists until they are charged with
it. If you can’t have privacy in your own bedroom, where can you have
In 2001, Mississippi enacted a sex offender registration law. The law
includes convictions for sodomy and requires those convicted of sodomy to
register with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety by providing among
other things address of residence, fingerprints, a photograph, place of
employment and a biological sample such as a strand of hair or blood. Those
convicted must also notify the department of any changes in address and
"It’s ridiculous that what consenting adults do in their bedrooms
can land them in prison and on Mississippi’s sex offender registry",
Lambda Legal files its brief—and an array of the nation’s most
respected civil rights organizations, conservative groups and health
associations file supportive briefs—with the U.S. Supreme Court today
(Thursday, January 16, 2003).
Equality Mississippi—Mississippi’s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization—exists to conduct public policy
research and further public education on the social, economic and health
issues affecting Mississippi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens.
Beyond this, Equality Mississippi works to advance the cause of full equality
and civil rights for the Mississippi LGBT community and for all
Mississippians. Equality Mississippi operates a web site at http://www.equalityms.org/.
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