Last edited: February 06, 2005

Town Hall Meeting in Mississippi Saturday on Lambda Legal’s U.S. Supreme Court Case Challenging Texas’s Sodomy Law

Decision in Case Expected in June: Outcome Could Effect Mississippi’s “Unnatural Intercourse” Law

Equality Mississippi, April 28, 2003
Contact: Jody Renaldo; Executive Director

Jackson, MS—Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Equality Mississippi will co-host a community town hall meeting Saturday afternoon with an update on Lambda Legal’s case challenging Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law. The U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision in the case by June.

“Since the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear our case, there’s been a tremendous amount of interest and energy from LGBT people and straight allies around the state who want to seize this historic moment with us,” said Hector Vargas, Director of Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. “Many of us have been working for years to get rid of laws like this. We’re excited to be working with our friends in Jackson to increase understanding of this case, the many ways sodomy laws hurt gay people, and the need to get rid of these laws once and for all.”

Mississippi’s sodomy law includes both heterosexual and homosexual couples but as is often the case, is mostly used against gay men and lesbians. Depending on how the Supreme Court’s decision is written regarding the Texas law, the Mississippi law may be affected.

“Mississippi’s antiquated sodomy law came on the books when, in a code adopted in 1802, Mississippi recognized common- law crimes, thus making sodomy a capital offense,” said Jody Renaldo, Equality Mississippi executive director. “201 years later, whether you are gay or straight, you are classified as a felon if you engage in consensual oral and or anal sex. How many of our current legislators go home to their wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends and render themselves felons by breaking the state’s sodomy law? There are better things to do with law enforcement time and state money than policing the bedroom sex acts of consenting adults.”

Mississippi’s sex offender laws also require anyone convicted of sodomy to register as a sex offender with their local sheriff’s department and such information is open to the public.

In the Supreme Court case against the Texas law, Lambda Legal represents John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men engaged in private, consensual sex. Once convicted, they were forced to pay fines, are now considered sex offenders in several states and are disqualified from working in dozens of professions. Texas’s “Homosexual Conduct” law criminalizes oral and anal sex by consenting gay couples and is used widely to justify discrimination against lesbians and gay men. On March 26, the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Texas law violates the federal Constitution’s guarantee that laws must protect and apply to people equally, as well as whether it violates the right to privacy.

Co-sponsoring the event is American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi.

Saturday afternoon’s forum is part of a series of presentations Lambda Legal is hosting in all 13 states that still have sodomy laws. In partnership with a wide range of organizations, the community meetings will help educate the public about the harms sodomy laws cause and empower people to help fight these laws.

The community town hall meeting will be Saturday afternoon, May 3, 2003, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Eudora Welty Library, 300 N. State Street, Jackson, Mississippi.

Notes to Reporters and Editors:

Mississippi sodomy law history may be obtained on the World Wide Web at:

Lambda Legal’s US Supreme Court sodomy law case section may be found on the World Wide Web at:

Reference Mississippi’s sodomy law: Mississippi Code Annotated (1972) §97-29-59

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