LLDEF Targets Arkansas Sodomy Law
January 28, 1998
By NewsPlanet Staff
SUMMARY: Lambda's litigators -- and 7 very brave people -- will take up the fight against
Arkansas' law prohibiting same-gender sex acts...the law that got by Bill.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is filing a lawsuit today on behalf of
seven gays and lesbians in the hope of striking down Arkansas' sodomy law. It's one of
only six such state laws applying exclusively to same-gender sex acts, although almost
half the states have non-gender-specific sodomy laws. Although violations of the Arkansas
law are only misdemeanors, they are punishable by up to one year in jail and $1,000 -- and
the law's ramifications extend far beyond any actual enforcement.
Lambda staff attorney Suzanne Goldberg said, "This law creates a second-class
status for lesbians and gay men, criminalizing intimate, sexual behavior that is perfectly
legal for non-gay people. The Arkansas sodomy statute is used to cause terrible harm to
gay people, depriving gay parents of custody of their children and putting people at risk
of losing their professional licenses, their jobs, and their homes, simply for engaging in
sexual intimacy with a loved one."
Lambda intends to show that the sodomy law violates privacy rights and the federal
constitutional guarantee of equal treatment before the law. Lambda has already played a
role in successful legal challenges to discriminatory sodomy laws in Tennessee, Kentucky
and Montana. The group says that the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down
Colorado's Amendment 2 in "Romer v. Evans" is "a new and powerful federal
tool" they can use against other discriminatory laws. (Amendment 2 was a ballot
initiative passed in 1992 to prohibit and overturn local ordinances recognizing gays,
lesbians and bisexuals as a minority group. It never took effect because it was
immediately appealed to the courts, where it lost every round up to and including the U.S.
Supreme Court. The high court's ruling made it clear that no group could legally be
singled out to be denied equal participation in the po! litical process.)
Arkansas' sodomy law had previously been repealed and then reinstated. The
reinstatement occurred during now-U.S. President Bill Clinton's tenure as Arkansas
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