Another Lambda Legal Victory—Arkansas Supreme Court Decision Strikes Down
State’s Sodomy Law
Law violated Arkansans’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal
News Releases, July 9, 2002
New York—The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled in Jegley v. Picado,
a lawsuit brought by seven lesbian and gay Arkansas residents challenging the
state’s same-sex-only sodomy law, that the law violates the state
constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection. Lambda Legal Defense
and Education Fund (Lambda Legal) was successful in urging the Court, on
behalf of the plaintiffs, to void the state’s ban on intimate relations
between consenting adults of the same sex.
Ruling 5-2, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a lengthy decision that
emphasizes all Arkansans’ expectations of privacy in their homes. It also
underscores that lesbians and gay men share the same constitutional
protections as others.
Lambda Legal filed the Picado case in January 1998 and the state fought
unsuccessfully to have it dismissed. Both sides filed motions for summary
judgment and in March 2001, Judge David B. Bogard of the Pulaski County
Circuit Court overturned the anti-gay sodomy law, ruling that the statute
violated the right to privacy and equal protection under the Arkansas
constitution. Judge Bogard’s ruling marks the first time an Arkansas court
recognized that there is a right to privacy under the state constitution. The
Office of the Attorney General of Arkansas appealed Bogard’s decision to the
Arkansas Supreme Court.
"The Arkansas Supreme Court has proclaimed that the government doesn’t
belong in the bedrooms of consenting adults," stated Susan Sommer,
supervising attorney for Lambda Legal, who successfully argued the case.
"The Court has held that Arkansas’s lesbian and gay residents are
entitled to the same rights as their heterosexual neighbors. This is a great
victory for Arkansas."
In finding this law unconstitutional, the Arkansas Supreme Court, in its
The General Assembly cannot act, under the cloak of police power or public
morality, arbitrarily to invade personal liberties of the individual
citizen.... [The sodomy law] does invade such liberties, arbitrarily
condemning conduct between same-sex actors while permitting the exact same
conduct among opposite-sex actors. [The State] has failed to demonstrate how
such a distinction serves a legitimate public interest."
"The seven courageous plaintiffs in this case have demonstrated the
importance of taking a stand against harmful and discriminatory laws aimed at
lesbians and gay men," said David Ivers, cooperating attorney with Emily
Sneddon of the Little Rock firm of Mitchell, Blackstock, Barnes, Wagoner,
Ivers & Sneddon.
Only three other states—Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas—still have anti-gay
consensual sex laws. Courts in many states, including Georgia, Kentucky,
Montana, and Tennessee, have struck down so-called sodomy laws. Nine states
still criminalize private oral and anal sex for both gay and non-gay
This month, Lambda Legal is continuing to challenge the Texas
"Homosexual Conduct Law" and will ask the United States Supreme
Court to decide the constitutionality of that law. A petition asking for
review is due on July 16th. The Texas case involves two Houston men who were
arrested and convicted of violating the law by having sex in the privacy of
one man’s home. Texas courts have upheld the law as constitutional.
"While Arkansans have been freed of that state’s unconstitutional
sodomy law, gay and lesbian Texans still carry the yoke of the Texas ‘Homosexual
Conduct Law,’" stated Ruth Harlow, legal director for Lambda. "We
are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike that law down once and for
Contact: In New York: Stefanie Spina 212-229-0540
[Home] [News] [Arkansas]