Congressional RecordSenate, September 14, 1981,
Mr. THURMOND. Mr. President, on September 9, 1981, the distinguished
Senator from Alabama (Mr. DENTON) introduced a resolution, Senate Resolution 207, to
disapprove the recent action of the District of Columbia City Council in repealing local
criminal laws against sodomy, adultery, fornication, and seduction. I commend him for that
action and have joined with him as a cosponsor.
I have always been a strong advocate of local government. For that reason, I believe
that only under extreme circumstances should Congress intrude into the local affairs of
the District government. In this instance, however, the circumstances are extreme.
Washington is a special city. Washington is not only home
for those who live in the city; it is also the Capital of our Nation and the leading city
of the free world. Washington cannot be a laboratory for social experimentation, and the
Congress must not allow it to become one. It is our responsibility to take whatever steps
we can to prevent a clearly irresponsible action in an important area of criminal law.
If we do not act against the proposed legalization of criminal activity, we will send
to the American people and to the world a signal that our moral standards have been again
I am disturbed with the action of the District Council which would decrease the penalty
for rape from life to 20 years. This would mean that a convicted rapist could be out on
the street again after as little as 3 or 4 years. I am amazed that some have so little
respect for women and so little concern for the seriousness of the crime of rape.
Other aspects of the proposed law are equally distressing. If Congress permits the
Council action to stand, then in the Capital of the United States, there would be no
criminal sanctions against sodomy, bestiality, and other forms of deviant, although
consensual, sexual activity involving persons over 16 years of age.
At some point, the concern we all feel for effective home rule in the District of
Columbia must be outweighed by our responsibility to both the city and to the country. In
this instance that point has been reached.
Some will undoubtedly argue that the City Council ordinance should be allowed to become
law on the basis of respect for the power of the city government. Nevertheless, under the
Home Rule Act, Congress expressly reserved the power to review and veto certain actions of
the Council, notably with respect to criminal statutes. Since that reservation was one of
the bases for the enactment of home rule for the District of Columbia, Congress must have
anticipated occasions when it would be appropriate to utilize this reserved power.
A sweeping overhaul of criminal penalties such as that envisaged in the proposed law
passed by Council is a matter which is particularly appropriate for congressional
intervention. By law, the welfare of our Capital City is a matter of continuing
responsibility for Congress. On that basis, I urge that the Senate promptly adopt Senate
Resolution 207 and thereby disapprove the unwise and dangerous action of the District
government. To do less would invite the deserved criticism of the entire country.