Await Rights Ruling from Supreme Court
Rosa Press-Democrat, June 6, 2003
P. O. Box 569, Santa Rosa, CA 95402
By Cecilia M. Vega, The Press Democrat
A Supreme Court ruling expected this month on a
potentially historic case for gay rights could fall on the heels of this
weekend’s Sonoma County Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Celebration.
As the North Bay’s gay community prepares for its most
celebrated event of the year, community leaders are eagerly awaiting the
ruling on a Texas “homosexual conduct” law that criminalizes sex between
“I don’t want the Supreme Court to pee on our
parade,” said Jim Spahr, president of the North Bay chapter of PFLAG, or
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. “Anytime there is a
negative ruling ... it helps send a signal that it’s OK to beat up on people
with minority sexual orientation.”
The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case, Lawrence
vs. Texas, in March and is expected to issue its ruling this month.
At issue is whether the Texas law violates the U.S.
Constitution by making it illegal for gay couples, but not heterosexual
couples, to engage in certain sexual activity. Oklahoma, Wyoming and Missouri
also have similar anti-sodomy laws specific to gay couples.
Gay-rights groups say the Texas law discriminates against
gay citizens and violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
They also say it intrudes on personal liberties.
“As long as they are of age and consenting adults
treating each other with respect, it’s none of my business” what goes on
inside their home, Spahr said.
Even though California repealed its sodomy law in 1976,
local gay-rights organizations say the ruling will have a far-reaching impact
on all gay communities.
Nine other states have laws that criminalize oral and
anal sex, but the statutes apply to both gay and heterosexual adults.
“I certainly hope that times have changed and that the
Supreme Court will see that it’s necessary to protect everyone’s
privacy,” said Pam Adinoff, coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of
Petaluma. “It’s not just states rights. It’s personal (rights).”
Lawyers defending the Texas law have said the case
centers on states’ rights.
“Various states have changed their position on sodomy.
They’ve done it through the legislative process, and that’s where we
believe this belongs, in the statehouse of Texas, not this court,” Charles
A. Rosenthal Jr., the district attorney for Harris County, Texas, told the
Supreme Court justices during the case’s March arguments.
Organizers of this year’s Sonoma County Pride Weekend
suspect discussion of the Supreme Court case will emerge among political
speakers at the event.
Since New York celebrated the country’s first gay pride
march in 1970 in response to law enforcement raids on gay bars, the movement
has seen significant changes.
This year, Sonoma County will mark its 13th gay pride
weekend, which culminates with a parade through Santa Rosa on Sunday
“We’re really lucky in Santa Rosa and Sonoma
County,” said Larry Trent, president of the Sonoma County Lesbian and Gay
Pride Committee. “We’ve come full circle to the point where the police are
embracing us and are actively participating in our parade.”
Gay-rights advocates said the Supreme Court has a chance
to provide a boost to civil rights.
“If nothing else, a positive ruling would be one more
affirmation ... that would say we’re making progress,” Spahr said.
“We’re not there by a long shot, but we’re making progress.”
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