Sodomy Ban Should Have Ended Sooner
Kansas City Star,
July 14, 2003
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
By Robert N. Minor, Special to The Star
The Supreme Court’s decision June 26 striking down Texas’ law banning
same-sex sodomy was overdue.
Though the justices declared the law unconstitutional on the grounds of the
right to protect all consenting adults from law enforcement intrusion in their
bedrooms, the objections to the court taking this action seem archaic and
The past half-century of study has shown that arguments used to maintain
discrimination against gay people are little more than leftovers from days of
ignorance and prejudice. Yet they are often couched in religious, traditional
or scientific terms.
The court couldn’t accept arguments from psychology. All mainstream
professional psychological organizations removed homosexuality from their list
of disorders more than a quarter of a century ago. Those who continue to
promote “conversion” or “reparative therapy” face accusations of
unprofessional conduct, lack of evidence of their effectiveness and refusal to
understand the psychology of sexual orientation. The American Psychological
Association admitted: “Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness
because mental health professionals and society had biased information.”
Biblical arguments against homosexuality have lost some appeal. Biblical
scholars have shown that anti-gay interpretations of Biblical passages are
based more on current prejudices than on historical readings of the texts.
Those who continue to use the Bible refuse to admit that their understanding
of the Bible is only one possibility.
Arguments that “Judeo-Christian” religious history is thoroughly
against homosexuality conveniently ignore the diversity of Jewish and
Christian teachings and practice since the first century. One can find
anything one wants in the history of Christianity: crusades, inquisitions, the
burning of witches, arguments for slavery or rejection of women’s
leadership. The United States’ largest Protestant denomination was founded
in 1845 on a “states’ rights” platform to maintain slavery.
“Tradition” itself no longer holds the value it did as people note that
what we call traditional is only discriminately picking from human history
what one wants and ignoring what one doesn’t. If anything is traditional,
it’s prejudice, bigotry and cockroaches. Justice Anthony Kennedy was
informed by solid scholarship: “There is no longlasting history in this
country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter.”
- Robert N. Minor is professor of religious studies at the University of
Kansas. He lives in Lawrence.