Last edited: February 14, 2005

Suit Filed Against Massachusetts Sodomy Law

Datalounge, July 17, 2000

BOSTON, Ma. — Massachusetts’ centuries-old sodomy statute will face scrutiny before the commonwealth’s Supreme Judicial Court, the Boston Globe reports.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) a gay civil rights advocacy filed suit asking the state’s highest court to make a declaratory judgment that the sodomy laws violate state constitutional rights of privacy and dignity.

Massachusetts is one of only 17 remaining states in the country to criminalize certain sexual behaviors, including oral sex, be they conducted by gay or straight partners.

"There have been very significant efforts made to try to address this issue through the Legislature and they have all simply hit dead ends," said Jennifer Levi of GLAD. "The statute is so clearly in violation of the privacy and dignity guaranteed to all citizens of the Commonwealth that it calls out for judicial redress."

Sodomy laws have fallen to legislative repeals and judicial decisions in one state after another. Levi told the Globe it was time that Massachusetts joined the ranks of Maryland, Montana, Tennessee, Nevada, Rhode Island, New York, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia and Michigan.

Conservatives intend to fight its invalidation by the court. "This issue goes to the very heart of the matter when it comes to society and homosexuality, which is that it’s been the settled conviction of civilizations for centuries that sodomy is a crime against nature," C.J. Doyle of the state’s Catholic Action League told the newspaper.

"We think the law is a teacher," Doyle added, "and the laws ought to remain on the books."

Massachusetts currently prohibits "the abominable and detestable crime against nature," which in interpreted as anal intercourse, and another statute which "unnatural acts," which has been applied to both oral and anal sex.

"Striking down the sodomy statutes doesn’t remove from the state its ability to prosecute offenses involving public conduct," Levi said. At least two state laws prohibit indecent exposure and public sexual exposure. "All it does is to remove the state’s ability to regulate some of the ways in which people express intimacy."

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