Last edited: February 14, 2005

Vote for the Much Needed Sodomy Law Reform

[Letters similar to the following were sent the day before the December 1, 1992 D.C. Council session to Councilmembers Harry Thomas, Frank Smith, John Ray, Jim Nathanson, Hilda Mason, Bill Lightfoot, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Linda Cropp, H.R. Crawford, and Harold Brazil. The only Councilmembers to whom the letter was not sent were Jack Evans, who was to introduce the amendment, and outgoing Councilmember Wilhelmina Rolark, who had refused to report sodomy repeal legislation out of her Judiciary Committee for the previous nine years.]

                                                                                1414 17th Street, NW, Apt. 711
                                                                                Washington, DC 20036
                                                                                Monday, November 30, 1992

John Wilson, Chairman
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Chairman Wilson:

At the Council session on Tuesday, December 1, you will have the opportunity to add your vote to a much-needed reform of the sodomy law, by way of a measure introduced by Councilmember Jack Evans as an amendment to another bill. Your support for this amendment and at both readings of the bill will enable the legislation to reach Capitol Hill to begin the Congressional review period in January, while Congress is working on the first 100 days of the Clinton agenda. I urge you to vote for the amendment and show your support for justice now for all citizens of the District, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Gay men and lesbians have waited far too long already to gain our full enfranchisement as equal citizens. The continued criminalization of sexual acts between consenting adults is an offense to all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. You know as well as I do that the sodomy law is as antiquated and inappropriate in a free society as were the old Jim Crow and miscegenation laws.

I am aware that, as with the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act earlier this year, homophobic members of the clergy — from Cardinal Hickey to Rev. Sparrow and the Committee of 100 Ministers — will be pressuring you to vote according to their intolerant and narrow-minded religious doctrines. I urge you to heed instead the many decent members of the religious community who reject the poisonous words of these wolves in shepherds’ clothing. In any case, to paraphrase former Councilmember Betty Ann Kane’s remarks to a group of ministers eleven years ago (as she related the incident to me), it is for ministers to preach to their congregations what is a sin, and for councilmembers to decide what shall be the law. (Let me add the political observation that the same ministers supported Mayor Kelly’s opponent in the last mayoral election, and you know how many allies they found for that failed crusade.)

The separation between church and state has been under enough threat lately from the Mayor’s Corporation Counsel, which in its briefs on the Gay marriage case has cited page after page of biblical chapter and verse in flagrant disregard of the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. One needn’t support Gay marriage to be offended by the Corporation Counsel’s unrelenting efforts to justify rank bigotry and deny the equal protection of the law to Gay men and women. By voting to reform the sodomy law on Tuesday, the D.C. Council will send a strong message that homophobia has no place in our city or its government, and that Gay people are not criminals.

There is no advantage to our side in waiting. God only knows how long it will take for the new Congress and D.C. Council to settle into their new committee assignments and relationships; by then, it will likely be budget time, and the next election will be nearer. There will always be fresh excuses on hand for further delay, whether they be based upon considerations of the legislative calendar, procedure, or intra-Council niceties. Those of us who are criminalized because of whom we love are not willing to wait any longer. We have heard all the excuses before, and now we want action.

You know that decriminalizing adult consensual sodomy is the right thing to do, and there is no time like the present for doing it. All in the District of Columbia who respect justice and civil rights are diminished every day that this damnable law remains on the books. I urge you to vote for sodomy law reform on Tuesday. I will be there watching.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this letter. I look forward to our continued cooperation to secure liberty and justice for all in the District and in the state of New Columbia.

Sincerely yours,

Richard J. Rosendall

cc: J. Coudriet
     J. Evans

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