Last edited: December 07, 2004

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
Phone: 601-936-7673

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 men.

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 father.

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 privacy?"

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 employment.

"It’s ridiculous that what consenting adults do in their bedrooms can land them in prison and on Mississippi’s sex offender registry", said Renaldo.

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

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