Agree: Supreme Court Ruling on Sodomy Laws Far-Reaching
Associated Press, June 26,
By Adrienne Schwisow, Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND, Va.—Virginians on all
sides of the Supreme Court decision striking down a ban on gay sex called the
ruling a landmark that will make it increasingly difficult for governments to
consider sexual orientation in matters like marriage and adoption.
“This is particularly exciting for those who have been
branded criminals even though they have never been tried and convicted in the
state of Virginia,” said Dyana Mason, executive director of the gay and
lesbian lobbying group Equality Virginia, which organized a celebration in the
shadow of the state Capitol on Thursday.
The ruling that struck down the Texas sodomy law extends
to Virginia and 11 other states with similar laws. The Virginia law makes oral
and anal sex between consenting homosexual and heterosexual adults punishable
by between one and five years in years in prison. The General Assembly has
repeatedly rejected efforts to repeal the law.
Ronald Krotoszynski, a constitutional law professor at
Washington & Lee University Law School in Lexington, said the ruling
leaves little “wiggle room” for the Virginia law to stand.
“This is a huge case. This is the Brown versus Board of
Education for the gay community,” Krotoszynski said, referring to the 1954
Supreme Court decision that struck down segregation.
“States hostile to the concept of same-sex marriages
and same-sex families are going to have a hard time avoiding the implications
of this ruling,” he said.
While gay activists celebrated, conservative
organizations reacted with outrage.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell, pastor of the 22,000-member
Thomas Road Baptist Church and chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg,
said Thursday was “as bad a day as we’ve had since Roe v. Wade” in 1973.
“The court allowed the right to privacy to trump the
compelling interest the state has in promoting the family interests of right
and wrong,” Falwell said. “It just says that privacy permits anything
between consenting adults. It would actually makes bestiality legal if it’s
taken to the limits or privacy.”
Lobbyists from the Family Foundation of Virginia vowed to
continue their fight against the extension of marriage, adoption and custody
rights to homosexuals.
Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said in a statement he was
disappointed that the court had undermined “Virginia’s right to pass
legislation that reflects the views and values of our citizens.”
He emphasized that the ruling does not affect state laws
against prostitution, coerced sex acts, including with minors, or acts that
take place in public. He also said the ruling doesn’t prevent the state from
recognizing “that marriage is fundamentally between a man and a woman.”
Krotoszynski attributed the court’s majority decision
in part to cultural changes that have seen homosexuals gain acceptance and
even popularity in western cultures.
“There was no ‘Will and Grace’ in the 1950s, and
certainly not in the 1850s,” Krotoszynski said of the TV show with openly
gay characters. “The court doesn’t want to be the vanguard of change, but
it seems to be comfortable validating those changes that have already taken
Gay activists said they hope to seize on momentum from
the decision to push issues they’ve been lobbying for years—changes in
discrimination laws regarding employment, housing and adoption, and adding
sexual orientation to the state hate crime statute.
Sam Garrison, a lawyer for 10 men convicted of soliciting
oral sex in a Roanoke park in 1998, called the ruling a vindication over
conservatives who tried to impose what he called an “arbitrary morality.”
The Virginia Supreme Court refused in 2001 to hear an appeal of the
Jay Squires, a lawyer and the publisher of the Web site gayrichmond.com,
said the ruling removed a huge roadblock to gays obtaining equal rights.
“Until today, I could have been arrested for a felony
and sentenced to up to five years in prison for an act of intimacy with my
partner of 15 years,” Squires said.
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