Texas Sodomy Case Is More About Equal Treatment
West Citizen, June 19, 2003
3420 Northside Dr., Key West, FL 33041
By Mandy Bolen, firstname.lastname@example.org
KEY WEST—What does sodomy in
Texas have to do with gay people’s adoption rights in Florida?
The two subjects have become linked in recent
conversations about gay rights and a U.S. Supreme Court decision pertaining to
a Texas sodomy law expected to be handed down this month.
Those who have been following the Florida lawsuit that
challenges the state’s prohibition of gay couples from adopting children
have said in recent months that they expect the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals,
a federal court, to wait until the Supreme Court rules on the Texas case
before handing down its judgment about adoption.
Nadine Smith, executive director of the advocacy group
Equality Florida, spoke Sunday to PrideFest participants about the importance
of the case, and said that gay rights advocates are planning to demonstrate
either in support or opposition to the ruling. That demonstration will take
place the day the nine-judge panel announces its decision, which is expected
June 23 or 30.
So again, what does sodomy in Texas have to do with
adoption in Florida?
Key West attorney Wayne Larue Smith is one of the
plaintiffs in the Florida case seeking to end the ban on gay adoption in
Florida. He, along with his partner Dan Skahen, have also been certified and
successful foster parents for more than four years.
Smith explained the ties between the two cases on Monday,
and emphasized that their connection has nothing to do with sodomy, but
instead with the fact that in each case, homosexual people are singled out and
The Texas “Homosexual Conduct Law” prohibits acts of
intimacy, including oral and anal sex, between same-sex couples. It does not
prohibit any such acts between a heterosexual couple as long as both
participants are consenting adults.
The Florida law against gay people adopting children also
pertains specifically to homosexuals.
“Can Texas single out homosexual activities and forbid
those? That’s what the Supreme Court is deciding,” Smith said. “It
becomes an equal protection issue. If the court says that Texas can’t do
this because the state is treating a different group of people differently,
then that ruling will affect our adoption case.”
Conversely, Smith said, if the Supreme Court rules that
the state of Texas has shown that it has good reason to prohibit such behavior
for one group of people, and upholds the law, it will also affect the adoption
case in Florida.
“If it is decided on equal protection grounds, the
Texas case will likely dictate the outcome of our case,” he said.
He also explained a brief history of sodomy rulings that
could pertain to the Texas case. In the mid-1980s, Georgia’s sodomy law was
challenged based on morality, even though it pertained to all people. The
Supreme Court, in Bowers vs. Hardwick, upheld the law on the grounds of public
morality through a ruling based on Rights to Privacy rather than Equal
Protection, Smith said.
“In a sense, they said that the state can regulate what
consenting adults can do behind closed doors,” he said.
If the Supreme Court decides to strike down the Texas law
because of Rights to Privacy rather than Equal Protection for all people, the
court would also have to overturn its Georgia decision because the court would
have ruled differently on similar cases.
Florida also has a law against sodomy, but it is one that
pertains to all couples, not just homosexuals.
Other states that ban sodomy for everyone include
Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah
and Virginia. Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri prohibit oral and anal
intercourse between homosexuals only.
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