Court Strikes Down Arkansas Sodomy Law
March 2426, 2001
A judge in Arkansas struck down the states sodomy law Friday, saying
that it unfairly targets gays and lesbians. The law, passed in 1977,
criminalizes only same-sex sexual activities. It had been challenged by seven
gays and lesbians who said they feared being convicted and losing their jobs
because of the law. Pulaski County circuit judge David Bogard said the
Arkansas legislature erred when it banned consensual, noncommercial sexual
activities between people of the same sex while permitting the same activities
among heterosexuals. The state had argued that the public interest was
protected by criminalizing behavior that many find immoral, but Bogard
disagreed: "The people of Arkansas have the right to legislate on issues
involving morals, but homosexuality is not only a question of morals."
Bogard said a way of life "that is odd or even erratic" cannot be
condemned just because it is different. The plaintiffs were represented by
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ruth Harlow, legal director for the
group, said that while none of the plaintiffs had been charged under the
sodomy law, they had been threatened by its existence. "The law hangs
over their heads and treats them like second-class citizens," she said.
"It says its illegal when you do it but not when your neighbor does,
as long as they are heterosexual." The Arkansas attorney generals
office said it had not decided whether to appeal the ruling.
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