Stands Behind His Support of Antisodomy Law
Lake Tribune, May 3, 2003
P. O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
By Rebecca Walsh, The Salt Lake Tribune
A controversial friend of the court brief that Utah
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff signed has jeopardized its author’s federal
Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor wrote the brief in
support of a Texas antisodomy law the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing. His
words have drawn fire from gay rights groups and threaten his nomination to
the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
But Shurtleff stands behind the brief, filed Feb. 18. He
says the 28-page argument was painstakingly written and primarily quotes
previous Supreme Court rulings.
“We’re just using the court’s words,” Shurtleff
said. “Some people could try to say this is expressing the personal
attitudes of the attorney general. We were just trying to express what we
believe Utah law says.”
Although 13 states have sodomy bans similar to the Texas
law, just Pryor, Shurtleff and one other state’s attorney general signed the
Utah’s decades-old sodomy law is at stake in the case.
If the court decides it is unconstitutional to punish gay couples for what
happens in their bedrooms, the sodomy bans could be overturned.
Justices heard arguments in the Texas case in March. A
ruling is expected by July. Meantime, Pryor’s confirmation hearings have not
Pryor argues individual state legislatures with their
unique sensibilities—not the U.S. Supreme Court—should establish laws
dealing with homosexuality. Unless rights are specifically outlined in the
U.S. Constitution, he says the court has to consider history, legal traditions
and practices—not political correctness and changing social mores.
By extension, Pryor wrote, “because homosexual sodomy
has not historically been recognized in this country as a right—to the
contrary, it has historically been recognized as a wrong—it is not a
Later, Pryor continues, “A constitutional right that
protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect
sexually’ must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery,
necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and
Gay rights groups have protested Pryor’s nomination.
And some have likened Pryor’s language to Pennsylvania Sen. Rick
Santorum’s comments comparing homosexuality to incest, bigamy and polygamy.
“It’s the slippery slope argument,” said Kevin
Cromer, president of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans. “It does not follow
that decriminalizing homosexuality will lead to adultery subsequently being
declared legal. Adultery is a breach of a contract between two people. It does
not follow that incest will be decriminalized. Polygamists who are prosecuted
are usually the ones who lure female children into sexual relations. That will
always be a crime.”
But Shurtleff says comparing the legal arguments in the
brief to Santorum’s comments is unfair: “That’s certainly not what I was
saying by signing on.”
Then, said Cromer, “he shouldn’t have signed it if he
didn’t mean to endorse what it says.”
[Home] [News] [Lawrence