New York Gay Rights Group Back In Court To Topple Arkansas Sodomy Law
Arkansas Democrat Gazette,
November 2, 1999
Box 2221, Little Rock, AR, 72203
By Seth Blomeley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor began another legal round Monday in the nearly
2-year-old fight to keep intact a law that state and local officials have never enforced
and say they wont enforce.
At issue is a 22-year-old law banning private homosexual sodomy.
Pryors office is "expending a lot of resources and putting up a big fight to
keep this law on the books. Theyre expending a lot of money," Ruth Harlow,
attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said after Mondays
Assistant Attorney General Tim Gauger declined to comment as he left court Monday and
referred questions to Pryors spokesman, Michael Teague.
Pryor, who inherited the case after taking office in January, didnt want to
comment, Teague said. Pryor feels the same way about handling the homosexual sodomy law as
the state law banning partial birth abortion, his spokesman said.
"Well defend the statute," Teague said. "Thats our role.
[Pryor] feels strongly about not clouding issues with his personal beliefs."
Teague noted that Pryor is only spending money on salaried employees to work on the
Lambda, a New York homosexual rights group, claims Arkansas law violates
constitutional protections for privacy, saying what two consenting adults do in private
isnt the states business.
Also, the group claims the law, Arkansas Code Annotated 5-14-122, violates the Equal
Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state law only
addresses anal and oral sexual contact between homosexuals.
Such conduct between heterosexuals is legal.
Mondays hearing focused on whether Lambda -- which represents seven Arkansas
homosexuals -- can sue Pryor. The state constitution bars suits against the state.
Harlow argued that since Pryor, not the state, is the defendant, sovereign immunity
Gauger said that Pryor cant be a defendant because theres no evidence
hes enforced or threatened to enforce the homosexual sodomy law.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge David Bogard said hell issue a decision in about two
weeks. Any ruling likely will be appealed before a trial date can be set.
Bogard is the second trial judge to hear the case. The suit was filed Jan. 28, 1998, in
Pulaski County Chancery Court.
At the time, former Attorney General Winston Bryant said his office must defend all
challenges to state law, except those that are "outrageously unconstitutional."
Bryant chose to fight the challenge.
Bryant focused his defense on legal technicalities, not on any merits the homosexual
sodomy law might have. Pryor is doing the same.
When Chancellor Collins Kilgore refused to dismiss the case, Bryant appealed to the
Supreme Court. That court also refused to dismiss the case but ordered it transferred to
Only three other states, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, have laws prohibiting private
homosexual sodomy. Lambda is waging a legal battle in Texas, similar to the suit in
In the 1990s, appeals courts in four states, Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana and Missouri,
have thrown out such laws.
Twelve states outlaw heterosexual and homosexual sodomy.
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