Last edited: February 14, 2005

Mixed Reviews on Court Ruling

Delaware County Daily Times, June 29, 2003
500 Mildred Avenue, Primos, PA 19018
Fax: 610-622-8887

By Kristin Smith,

Local gay-rights and civil-liberties groups are claiming victory in Thursday’s Supreme Court decision overturning the laws against consensual sodomy.

Those opposed to the ruling see it as a sign of the nation’s moral decline.

Many homosexual advocacy groups across the nation are comparing the effects of this ruling to the 1954 landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., that ended school segregation.

Locally, those in favor of the ruling simply say that it’s long overdue.

“What goes on behind closed doors between two loving people, whether they’re male or female, as long as they’re not hurting anybody, is OK,” said James, who asked that his last name not be used. James, who is in a monogamous relationship, is a 30-year-old gay man living in Norwood.

“How can you put a barrier on loving someone?” he asks.

“This is basically what we as a whole, sexual minorities, have been waiting for. Hopefully, this can possibly open up more legalization for gays and lesbians.”

William Devlin, founder of Philadelphia-based Urban Family Council, a faith-based family advocacy organization, disagrees.

Calling the ruling “a case of the inmates running the asylum,” Devlin said it’s “a bad decision for America, a bad decision for children and a bad decision for families.”

“It’s bad public policy, it’s bad social policy and it’s also against nature,” Devlin continued.

The case, Lawrence and Garner v. Texas challenged and overturned by a vote of 6-3, a law making sodomy between two consenting adults illegal. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision found the law unconstitutional and also struck down all remaining sodomy laws on the books—four states had laws banning same-sex sodomy while nine banned it for couples, regardless of gender.

The issue of the right to privacy in the bedroom has been hotly debated throughout the country, in part spearheaded by Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) comments on the case to The Associated Press in an interview April 21.

Santorum, speaking of the Lawrence case, compared the legalization of consensual homosexual sex to the legalization of incest, polygamy, bigamy and adultery.

While a national news blitz followed these remarks, Santorum’s approval rating stayed at 55 percent among Pennsylvania voters, about the same as it was before his comments, according to a May 22 poll conducted by Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University.

That same poll also found that 58 percent of respondents believed homosexual sex is morally wrong but 45 percent felt it should not be illegal.

Santorum could not be reached for comment but issued a statement disagreeing with the court’s decision and stating his belief that the court overstepped its boundaries. “This (decision) effectively decrees the end of all moral legislation,” Santorum wrote.

Rev. Karla Fleshman believes the Supreme Court’s ruling shows that human law is finally catching up with God’s law.

“My initial reaction (to the decision) is that three of the six (justices) figured out what God already knows,” she said. “That we’re free, we’re equal and our relationships have the same integrity that heterosexuals do.”

Fleshman is minister of Imago Dei Metropolitan Church in Media, which serves about 120 Christian gay, bisexual and transgender people in the community.

“With a few pen strokes, we’ve gone from being seen as criminals in this country to being seen a little more like equal citizens,” she said.

The decision is also a victory for the families and friends of gays, said Fleshman. Anyone prosecuted under the law banning gay sex was at risk for losing their children or job because of a criminal conviction. That risk is now gone, she noted.

Local civil-liberties groups are also hailing the court’s decision, noting the broader implications of privacy issues.

“We think it’s a fantastic decision that represents a sweeping reaffirmation of the right of privacy,” said David DiSabatino, executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of the ACLU.

“Obviously, it’s a victory for gay and lesbian people, but it’s also a victory for anyone who wishes to be left alone in their most intimate decisions and actions.”

James of Norwood believes the decision is just one more step towards homosexuals gaining equality and recognition in society as a whole.

“We are your doctors, your police and fire protection, state representatives, your waiters. We’re out there and I think this is just coming to the forefront now. We’re actually now becoming visible,” he said.

[Home] [News] [Lawrence v. Texas]