of the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Sodomy
Lake Tribune, June 29, 2003
P.O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
Fax: 801-257-8950 Email: email@example.com
By Paula Wolfe
Sodomy has been used to deny equal rights and equal
protection to a group of people. Regularly, lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender people of Utah are denied housing, are fired from their jobs,
denied access to their partners in health-care situations. In Utah, members of
this community are more than three times more likely to be a victim of a hate
A year ago, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Utah
was asked to sign on to the amicus brief of Lawrence
vs. Texas. On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States handed
down a decision in that case that, in essence, invalidated 13 state sodomy
laws, including Utah’s.
For a third of a century, sodomy laws permitted the
government to dictate what was appropriate in our bedrooms. They controlled
and defined the most intimate component of an adult relationship. Some sodomy
laws, such as the one in Texas, named only homosexuals as potential offenders.
Other state laws, including Utah’s, made illegal any non-procreative acts,
regardless of sex or gender. In only four of the 13 states were the laws ever
enforced. Invariably, they chose to prosecute only homosexuals. As Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor pointed out, we were denied equal protection under the
Since Utah has not evoked [invoked?] its sodomy law, why
is our gay community so excited about this decision? Sodomy has been used to
deny equal rights and equal protection to a group of people. Regularly,
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of Utah are denied housing, are
fired from their jobs, denied access to their partners in health-care
situations. In Utah, members of this community are more than three times more
likely to be a victim of a hate crime. They are more likely to commit suicide.
Lesbians are more likely to lose custody of their natural-born children, and
men and women without any criminal conviction are denied the right to adopt a
Every year when the hate crimes bill comes before
Utah’s Legislature, it stumbles over the term “sexual orientation.” The
thinking seems to be that if homosexuals are illegal, they don’t deserve to
Not too many years ago we believed that African-Americans
were inferior and therefore did not deserve the same rights as the rest of us.
We created an entire culture built upon a notion of “separate but equal.”
In an effort to join the rest of our society as full citizens, the gay
community has struggled since the ‘60s for equal rights. The Supreme Court
has taken a step toward the recognition of that protection and those rights.
The dissenting opinions written by Justices Antonin
Scalia and Clarence Thomas argue that laws do control or define morality and
that if a law was enacted yesterday, we should practice it today. From this
perspective, I assume we should bring back the laws that permitted the burning
of witches, laws against miscegenation and, while we are at it, let’s
eliminate that vote for women.
On a more serious note, it is my hope that this decision
will extend its influence beyond gay men and lesbians to include the rest of
what some of us call the “queer” community. It is my hope that the rights
to privacy and personal liberty will be extended to include those immigrants
and naturalized citizens who were most recently held without any proof of
wrongdoing, without the right of appeal, without an opportunity to let their
families know where they were.
I hope this decision will shore up our commitment as a
nation to the vision of our forefathers, to offer equal protection for every
person in America.
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