Editorial: Privacy Leave Adults Alone
Charleston (WV) Gazette,
December 3, 1998
1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301
Fax: (304) 348-1233
Georgia law made it a prison offense for anyone, even married couples, to engage in
oral sex. Police who somehow entered a bedroom and found an uncovered couple in the wrong
position were required to jail the pair.
In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court -- dominated by conservative Republican appointees --
upheld Georgia's biblical-sounding "sodomy" law, at least as it applied to
homosexuals. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that to rule otherwise "would be to
cast aside millennia of moral teaching."
But now, thank heaven, Georgia's own state Supreme Court has "cast aside millennia
of moral teaching" and voided the law. In a landmark 6-1 ruling, the Georgia court
decreed that consenting adults have a right to privacy in the bedroom. The former law is
Hurrah. We hope this policy becomes standard throughout America. Thirteen other states
still criminalize oral sex between men and women, and five more make it a crime just among
gays. In every case, it's a police intrusion into the most intimate, personal, private
part of life.
This intrusion is part of an age-old attempt by severe moralists to control how others
make love. Throughout history, disapprovers have punished people for unapproved sex.
The Old Testament decreed that non-virgin brides must be stoned to death on their
fathers' doorsteps. Puritans in both England and America mandated death for unmarried
lovers. A century ago, Anthony Comstock's Committee for the Suppression of Vice jailed
2,500 Americans for many sex offenses, including birth control advocacy. In some states,
contraception was a crime, even for married couples, until a generation ago. In some
Muslim lands today, women still are stoned to death for unwed sex.
We're glad that all these aspects of "millennia of moral teaching" are being
outgrown by liberated modern America.
However, one stricture remains valid, concerning children. Parents naturally are upset
if raw sex is displayed to tots too young to understand. That's why Congress has tried
twice to ban sex on the Internet -- and twice failed. The first law was struck down, and
the second has been put into abeyance.
A solution has been prescribed by The Providence Journal. It suggests creation of a new
Web site suffix, ".sex" -- similar to ".com" for commercial sites,
".org" for organization sites, ".edu" for educational ones, etc. All
explicit sex -- such as Kenneth Starr's report on President Clinton -- would be relegated
to a ".sex" site. Parents could install filters to prevent children from
reaching those sites.
But for consenting adults, private sexual behavior should be of no concern to police,
prosecutors, judges, prison wardens and legislators. The government should stay out of the
bedroom. Just leave people alone.
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