Lawsuit Challenges Arkansas Sodomy Law
June 28, 2002
The Arkansas supreme court heard opening arguments Thursday in a lawsuit
brought by seven lesbian and gay state residents challenging the state’s
same-sex-only sodomy law. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is urging
the court, on behalf of the plaintiffs, to strike down the state’s ban on
intimate relations between consenting adults of the same sex. Working with
local counsel, Lambda Legal is arguing that the law violates the plaintiffs’
constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection.
The Arkansas law does not apply to heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples
are singled out for a criminal ban on consensual sex, with punishment being up
to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Only three other states—Kansas,
Oklahoma, and Texas—have similar antigay sodomy laws. Ten states criminalize
private oral and anal sex for both gay and straight consenting adults.
"The men and women standing up in the Arkansas supreme court today are
upstanding citizens of the state—your neighbors, coworkers, brothers, and
sisters—but they are deemed criminals under this sodomy law," said
Susan Sommer, supervising attorney for Lambda Legal. "They live with the
threat of arrest every day. The stigma that hangs over them with this unfair
law on the books fuels an atmosphere that condones discrimination, gay
bashing, and hate."
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