Challenge to Arkansas Sodomy Law Reaches State's Highest Court
Argument on Thursday, May 13: Lambda Fights Second Attempt To Block Case
Lambda Legal Defense and Education
Fund, May 10, 1999
NEW YORK -- As sodomy laws topple state by state, the Arkansas Supreme
Court will hear a case challenging a ban against the private, consensual sexual activities
of lesbians and gay men, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday.
On Thursday, May 13, Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, on behalf of six
lesbian and gay Arkansans challenging the sodomy law, will urge the Arkansas Supreme Court
to reject efforts to have the case, Bryant v. Picado, thrown out of court.
"Our clients suffer from a serious and on-going threat of prosecution under the
Arkansas sodomy law. Even when no one is arrested under the law, it still brands lesbian
and gay men in Arkansas as criminals, and puts us at risk of losing our jobs, homes, and
custody of our children," said Goldberg. She added, "Our clients are entitled to
seek relief in court from the grave effects of this harmful, irrational law."
The defendants, the Arkansas Attorney General and the Pulaski County Prosecuting
Attorney, are appealing a June 1998 decision by Chancery Court Judge Collins Kilgore
denying their motion to dismiss the case. In his ruling, Judge Kilgore found that because
the plaintiffs "live and suffer harms associated with continuing threats of criminal
prosecution under a constitutionally suspect scheme," there were sufficient grounds
to challenge the law.
The Arkansas sodomy law, which forbids oral and anal sex between two adults of the same
sex, carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000. Because the
law does not apply to the same acts when done by different-sex couples, the plaintiffs
argue that the sodomy ban treats lesbians and gay Arkansans as second-class citizens in
violation of equal protection guarantees and privacy rights under the federal and state
Seventeen states still have laws that criminalize certain private sexual acts between
consenting adults; of these, five states, including Arkansas, have sodomy laws that single
out lesbians and gay men. Lambda recently helped to overturn sodomy laws in Georgia,
Montana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and is also challenging the Texas sodomy law on behalf
of two men arrested while having sex in a private apartment.
Lambda Cooperating Attorneys David Ivers and Emily Sneddon of Michell, Blackstock &
Barnes, and Arkansas attorney Gary Sullivan, are also assisting in the case. Lambda is the
nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with
HIV and AIDS.
WHAT: Oral argument in Bryant v. Picado, the case challenging the state sodomy law
WHO: Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg argues on behalf of six lesbian
and gay Arkansans seeking to overturn the law; Goldberg, some of the plaintiffs, and their
other attorneys will be available to answer questions after the hearing
WHERE: Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Building, 625 Marshall Street, Little Rock,
WHEN: Thursday, May 13, 1999, 9:00 a.m.
(Bryant v. Picado, No. 98-01223)
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