Last edited: February 14, 2005

Frank Kameny's 1993 Testimony on DC's Sodomy Law Reform Bill

Testimony of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, of 5020 Cathedral Avenue, N. W., Washington, D. C., President of the Traditional Values Coalition, Inc. and of the Mattachine Society of Washington, Inc., on the Bill 10-30, presented before the Committee on the Judiciary of the City Council of the District of Columbia, on Friday, January 29, 1993.

Mr. Chairperson; Members of the D. C. City Council Committee on the Judiciary:

As a long-time Gay resident of the District of Columbia, I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify strongly in favor of the Bill 10-30 which amends Section 22-3502 of the D. C. Code, which is the District’s Sodomy law, by decriminalizing consensual acts of Sodomy engaged in by non-juveniles, and to urge its enactment by the City Council, exactly as it stands. Enactment of this Bill will bring the District, long overdue, into line with some 26 states, comprising some 75% of the population of the United States.

The Traditional Values Coalition, Inc. which I represent, is a D. C. corporation, established for the purpose of supporting and furthering traditional American values, the major single one of which is the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, guaranteed to us by our nation’s Birth Certificate, the Declaration of Independence, and which clearly includes pursuit of the happiness produced by the joys of Sodomy. Under D. C. law, this Traditional Values Coalition is the only organization which may lawfully conduct business of any kind in the District of Columbia under that name. The Mattachine Society of Washington, Inc. which I also represent, is the oldest Gay rights organization in the District and in the entire Washington area, having been founded in 1961.

Before I proceed further, let me urge this Committee to keep in mind, throughout what promises to be a very long hearing that: Sodomy is not synonymous with Homosexuality. The issue on the table today is Sodomy; it is not Homosexuality. If you keep that always at the forefront of your minds, and try to keep your witnesses on that track, this hearing will be far more productive.

The substantive language of this short Bill — 21 words in all — was extremely carefully and attentively drafted. As you know, Mr. Chairperson, I personally was deeply involved in that drafting, and So can speak with unique authority as to the intent coverage, and meaning of the Bill and — since I am sure that there will be some wild-eyed testimony making totally false claims as to the impact of the Bill — what it does not mean.

Our present Sodomy law prohibits oral-genital and anal-genital sexual activity on the part of any two people, whether those acts be consensual or nonconsensual, whether the acts be Homosexual or heterosexual, and whether the participants be married or unmarried. All such participants are categorized as Felons, and are subject to harsh penalty. Thus this is not a Gay rights bill, but a Washingtonians’ emancipation bill.

These acts are almost universally engaged in. The existing D. C. Sodomy law is far more honored in the breach than in the observance. That is hardly a desirable situation in any context, and is one which reeks of hypocrisy. For example: Oral Sodomy is engaged in by some 93% of all American adults — not Gay American adults, but all American adults. (E. G. See Schochet v. State, 541, A.2d, 183, 206, 1988). Thus as our law now stands, virtually the entire post pubertal population of the District of Columbia are habitual, repetitive, recidivist felonious Oral Sodomites, including, I venture to say, most of those who will hypocritically testify against this Bill. Thus, once again, this is not a Gay rights bill, but a Washingtonians’ emancipation bill.

Unlike acts of Fornication, which produce pregnancies, acts of Sodomy are ones of harmless pleasure and enjoyment, utterly devoid of any harmful or detrimental consequences. In over 30 years of work in this context, I have yet to hear a plausible argument specifying a compelling state interest — or any state interest at all — in abridging freedom to engage in private, consensual acts of Sodomy. In fact, in a society based at the most fundamental level, on the right to the pursuit of happiness, enshrined in the traditional values around which our culture is structured, the state and the government have a truly compelling moral and ethical obligation to encourage and facilitate acts of Sodomy on the part of those desiring to engage in them, not to prohibit, criminalize, and penalize them. That is what our American freedoms are all about! It is for that kind of personal freedom and for that form of governance that I put my life into jeopardy, in front line combat, in World War II, fighting a war for this country.

This Bill would remove from the ambit of criminalization by the Sodomy law, consensual acts of Oral Sodomy and Anal Sodomy engaged in by persons above the so-called age of consent, which is defined as 16 by Section 30-103 of the District Code. As stated, some 26 states, comprising some 75% of the population of the country, have similarly repealed or struck down their Sodomy laws, So this legislation represents nothing novel, radical, or at the cutting edge, but brings the District squarely into the middle of the American legal mainstream.

Let it be noted that through inclusion of the words "under this Section" this Bill will leave-totally unchanged, and fully effective, present laws against public indecency, against solicitation for Prostitution, and other offenses in the prosecution of which the Sodomy statute is utilized by prosecutors, and will leave unimpaired all valid law enforcement and prosecutorial interests.

Let it be noted that through inclusion of the words only and persons, the existing criminalization of bestiality is left unaltered.

Let it be noted that 16 has been the formal legal "age of consent" for sexual purposes, in the District of Columbia since at least 1901, that that age is incorporated both in the current Sodomy law and runs like a thread throughout the entire body of D. C. law on sexual offenses, and is consistent with mainstream American law on sexual offenses, under which 16 is the age of consent in the great majority of states, the nation over, and in Federal law. Thus no new ground is being broken with this provision, either locally or nationally. This matter is exhaustively addressed in a special memorandum attached to my written testimony, incorporated herein by allusion hereby, and being made part of the record thereby, and which has been separately delivered to each Councilmember as well.

While, as I said, the issue before us today is not Homosexuality, but Sodomy, and I do not retreat from that to any degree, because of the distorted perceptions of many, there is fallout from the criminalization of Sodomy which has a particularly pointed and pernicious effect upon Gays.

Despite the facts that violations of the Sodomy laws are universal, and that in late 20th Century America, Oral Sodomy virtually defines heterosexual sexual activity, the Sodomy laws are widely used disparately and selectively against Gays, and are often thought of as being directed solely against Homosexual sexual activity. The impact of this, societally and culturally, is devastatingly detrimental to Gay people, and therefore needs to be addressed here briefly.

For us, as Gay people, the Sodomy laws have become our latter-day "Jim Crow" laws, which are endlessly utilized, in context after context, often quite irrelevantly, to perpetuate an exclusion of Gays from every aspect of our society, and to perpetuate exactly the kind of second class status into which other minorities were placed in the past. They have become the tools for our oppression and victimization, and for institutionalizing anti-Gay discrimination, giving them enormous symbolic significance for us far beyond their actual, direct practical application and enforcement. That is the reason for the multiplicity of witnesses here today favoring this Bill, and for the intensity of the efforts to achieve enactment of this legislation.

The Sodomy laws themselves are rarely directly enforced against anyone in the contexts encompassed by this Bill. But they are illicitly invoked to create an aura of criminality, applied only to Gays, which is then utilized to inflict severe disadvantage. As a timely illustration, we read, only two days ago, of the utilization of these laws in neither Virginia and Maryland, as a basis for exclusion of Gays from our police departments. Judge Shelley Bowers, a patently incompetent judge of the D. C. Superior Court has irrationally invoked the Sodomy law to ban same-sex marriages. Adoptions and child visitation rights have been restricted on the false basis of the alleged criminality of Gays as Gays because of selective anti-Gay conceptualization of the Sodomy laws. These laws are used as a basis for denial of governmental security clearances to Gays. The Sodomy provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are being selectively invoked in support of the ban on Gays in the military. One could go on.

Falsely, illogically, and immorally, but as a matter of a very nasty reality, the Sodomy laws are persistently and pervasively mis-utilized by the anti-Gay moral fascists, from many of whom you will undoubtedly hear today, to keep Gay American citizens in second class, fringe status, and to marginalize us. This is un-American and unacceptable. Enactment of the Bill before you will provide significant remedy, at least in the District of Columbia.

Finally: A number of homophobic hatemongers, fraudulently claiming to be Christians, and blasphemously claiming to be Christian clergy, will be testifying against this Bill. They will base their objections on their false claim that it violates Biblical precepts and therefore condones sinfulness and immorality. They are wrong, and you should tell them so.

Misapplications and misconceptions as to the applicability of the Sodomy laws to Gay sex notwithstanding, the fact remains, and must be firmly reasserted, that this Bill is about Sodomy, not about Homosexuality. In the entire 66 books of the Bible, Old and New Testaments taken together, there is not one word about Oral Sodomy as such, much less one word condemning it or categorizing it as sinful or immoral. In the entire 66 Books of the Bible, there is not one word even alluding explicitly to Anal Sodomy as such, much less condemning it or categorizing it as sinful or immoral.

If any of these hatemongering bigots claim in their testimony that Sodomy is sinful or immoral, or condemned by the Bible or by God, challenge them. Insist that they cite and quote chapter and verse. They will be unable to do so because there are no biblical chapters and verses even mentioning Sodomy as such much less disapproving of it. They will attempt to put over on you alleged biblical condemnations of Homosexuality. But that is not what is before us today. Press them hard and insistently for substantiation of their claims of the sinfulness and immorality of Sodomy. And when they do not provide it because it is not there to be provided, make clear to them that they and their opposition to this Bill have lost credibility, as well they should.


In closing: Let me say that in all of its myriad forms, Sodomy is a sheer delight. Its enjoyment is part of the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness guaranteed to all of us as the most fundamental of traditional American values.

Sodomy is not only not immoral, or sinful, or wrong, or undesirable; it is affirmatively moral, virtuous, right, and desirable. Everyone who has not already done so should "try it; you’ll like it."

It is therefore clearly to the advantage of the District of Columbia that we have more and better lawful enjoyment of more and better lawful Sodomy by more and more law-abiding Washingtonians. Under existing law, that is not now possible; this Bill will make it possible. For the benefit of all of the citizens of the District of Columbia, enact this Bill just as it stands.

Thank you.

I am open for questions from the Committee.

Attachment: "Age of Consent" for D. C. Sodomy Law Repeal Bill - January 19, 1993

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