GOP Legislators Should Accept Sodomy Ruling
Forget Try for New Law
Athens Banner-Herald, November 26, 1998
Box 912, Athens, GA 30603
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The same law had been challenged before in federal court and upheld by the U.S. Supreme
Court, which ruled in 1986 that consenting adults have no constitutional right to private
While that case was instigated by a gay bartender from Atlanta, Monday's Georgia
Supreme Court decision came on a case involving a heterosexual man, Anthony Powell.
Powell's attorney convinced a jury to acquit his client of rape charges, arguing that
the sex was consensual, but failed to get the sodomy charge dismissed.
Speaking for the majority on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Robert Benham noted the
state already has laws preventing sexual assaults and protecting the public from sexual
With those laws on the books, he said, the only explanation for the sodomy law is
"to regulate the private conduct of consenting adults, something which Georgia's
right of privacy puts beyond the bounds of government regulation."
The court is absolutely right and should be applauded for meeting its judicial
obligation by arriving at a wise and fair decision.
There is no public good served by an archaic law that, while admittedly rarely
enforced, has been selectively used more often to persecute homosexuals than to punish
heterosexuals who violate it in far greater numbers.
The Powell challenge, for example, was the first in at least 10 years to be based on a
heterosexual case, according to an attorney involved in the appeal.
Since Monday's ruling voids the entire sodomy law, and the ruling cannot be appealed,
the only recourse for those bent on attempting to outlaw certain sexual behavior is to
introduce new legislation.
Any such initiative is bound to be a political football pitting conservatives against
liberals, detracting attention from other more important legislation and in the end
amounting to a colossal waste of time since the court would eventually declare it
unconstitutional as well.
The only chance for any success would be a constitutional amendment, but devising one
that bans private sexual activity among consenting adults without violating privacy rights
is a daunting challenge.
Only 18 states still have sodomy laws on the books. In many cases, legislatures have
repealed the laws or, as happened Monday in Georgia, they have been declared
unconstitutional by the courts.
It is ironic that members of the Republican Party, the political organization that
preaches individual rights and responsibilities and advocates fewer laws and less
government intrusion into the private lives of citizens, seems bent on a futile attempt to
enact another sodomy law in Georgia.
The party's leaders would be wise to reconsider their initial stance and stay out of
the bedrooms of Georgians who are legally old enough to decide for themselves what goes on
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