Last edited: December 08, 2004
ACLU Argues Challenge to Kansas Same-Sex Sodomy Law
American Civil Liberties Union, September 16, 1997
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TOPEKA--The American Civil Liberties Union
today urged the Kansas Court of Appeals to overturn the state's same- sex sodomy law,
arguing that it violates the equal protection and privacy rights of lesbians and gay men.
"This is one of the most unabashedly discriminatory laws our nation has ever
seen,"said Matt Coles, director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, who
argued the case this morning.
"According to the state of Kansas, the sex lives of heterosexuals are their own
business; they can do as they please," Coles said. "But the state takes a
different view of lesbians and gay men. If lesbians and gay men agree to have oral sex
together, they are criminals.
"If a law ever denied equal protection, this one does," Coles added.
The case involves Max D. Movsovitz, a self-employed artist who was criminally
charged on April 28, 1995 with violating a Topeka law which prohibits soliciting or
agreeing to have sodomy -- oral or anal sex.
According to the record in the case, Movsovitz had gone to the park to enjoy a balmy
spring afternoon and finish some paperwork when an undercover police officer pulled up
alongside in a car and struck up a conversation. Several minutes into their exchange, the
officer steered the conversation toward sex, asking questions about whether Movsovitz
would engage in oral sex with another man. When Movsovitz said he would, the officer
flashed his badge and issued a citation for "solicitation of
In 1995 a state municipal court found Movsovitz guilty of violating the Topeka
solicitation law, which, like the state sodomy law, only applies to lesbians and gay men.
The validity of the local law depends on the constitutionality of the state ban. Movsovitz
was fined $499 and placed on probation.
The ACLU said that the judgment against Movsovitz should be overturned, and the law ruled
unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection and privacy
guarantees of both the state and federal Constitutions.
"The government may not create one set of criminal rules for lesbians and gay men,
and an entirely different set of rules for every one else," Coles said. "Laws
like that violate our most basic understanding of equal protection."
Twenty-one states in the country still have sodomy laws on the books, but only six of
those states, including Kansas, have laws limited to same-sex acts. Nearly half the states
have repealed their sodomy laws through legislation and the rest have been struck down by
courts. Most recently, the Montana Supreme Court invalidated its same-sex sodomy law in
July, in a case where the ACLU appeared as a friend of the court.
Few people are ever convicted for criminal sodomy, the ACLU said. Instead, these laws are
primarily used to deny lesbians and gay men a range of other rights. Some states, for
instance, have invoked sodomy laws to deny lesbians and gay men jobs, while others have
used them to separate children from their gay mothers and fathers.
"We will continue to challenge sodomy laws until every last one has been
eliminated," said Coles. "These laws are a throwback to the dark ages, and a
constant threat to basic civil liberties."
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