Editorial: Get Government Out Of Bedrooms
St. Petersburg Times,
November 29, 1998
P. O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731
The court ruled that the state's anti-sodomy law violates the state Constitution's
guarantee of privacy. The case involved a man originally accused of raping and commiting
forceable sodomy on his 17-year-old niece, but who was found guilty only of consensual
sodomy. In light of that disturbing context, the court acted with particular courage to
use the case as a vehicle for voiding the law, because it meant overturning the man's
This clear-headed decision stands in stark contrast to the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Bowers vs. Hardwick, in which it upheld the same law.
That case arose after Michael Hardwick, a gay Atlanta bartender, was arrested in 1982
in his own bedroom. After the charges were dropped, he sued, challenging the
constitutionality of the law. The law was defended with religious zeal by Georgia's
then-Attorney General Michael Bowers, who quoted biblical passages in his submissions to
the court. He called homosexual acts "an anathema to the basic units of our society
-- marriage and the family." During his recent failed run for governor of Georgia,
Bowers was forced to admit having a decade-long extramarital affair with an employee.
Adultery also is a crime under Georgia law.
In Hardwick, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing government regulation of private,
non-commercial, adult sexual conduct. Justice Lewis Powell Jr. was the swing vote in the
case and after his retirement told an audience he "probably made a mistake on that
No doubt Hardwick will one day be consigned to the legal garbage heap, where it will
join such Supreme Court missteps as the Dred Scott decision, which affirmed that slaves
were property, and Plessy vs. Ferguson, which ratified government's "separate but
equal" approach to race relations. Until then, Hardwick is being slowly marginalized
as longstanding anti-sodomy laws are voided by enlightened courts and legislatures.
Florida is one of 18 states that still have such laws on the books. Our law criminalizes
homosexual and heterosexual sodomy under a statute banning "unnatural and lascivious
It's about time for Florida and the other holdouts to realize that allowing government
into our bedroom is a bigger "anathema to society" than anything that happens in
it between consenting adults.
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