State’s Highest Court Refuses to Throw Out Anti-Sodomy Laws
Associated Press, February 21, 2002
BOSTON—The state’s highest court has refused to
throw out two anti-sodomy laws that gay rights groups say can be used to
intimidate couples engaged in consensual sex.
The anti-sodomy laws, which date to colonial times, establish penalties of
up to 20 years for the "abominable and detestable crime against
nature" interpreted as anal intercourse and 5 years for any
"unnatural and lascivious act," interpreted to mean oral sex. Gay
activists challenged the laws as unconstitutional, arguing that they violate
the right to privacy, equal protection, freedom of expression and the
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. But the court declined to
decide the constitutionality of the laws, saying there was no active case to
base their ruling on.
"Because there is no actual controversy, we remand the case to the
county court for dismissal," Justice Roderick L. Ireland wrote. The court
did limit how the laws could be used, noting that prosecutors for the Attorney
General’s office and district attorneys had agreed not to prosecute anyone
under the laws unless the sexual acts were conducted in public or were not
Gay activists called the decision a partial victory, saying the court
clarified for the first time that the anti-sodomy laws don’t apply to
private, consensual sex.
[Home] [News] [Massachusetts]