January 2, 2003
1701 Main, Kansas City, MO 64108
A man who had sex at Shawnee Mission Park and patrons at a St. Louis
porn house carry the baton for gays and lesbians in Kansas and Missouri.
By Bruce Rushton
As if the blow job he enjoyed in a park—and the trip to jail he earned
for getting it—weren’t enough exposure for Robert Rowe, he has decided to
tell his story to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Rowe had just zipped up his pants when a Johnson County park ranger found
him with another man in a bathroom near Shelter No. 2 at Shawnee Mission Park
in April 2001. The ranger asked what was going on, and in a fit of honesty
Rowe told him.
Had Rowe been caught in the park with a woman, Johnson County prosecutors
would most likely have charged him—if they had charged him at all—with
"lewd and lascivious behavior" (having sex or exposing genitalia in
Instead, he was convicted for breaking Kansas’ rarely enforced sodomy
law. The difference in charges had no practical effect on Rowe’s punishment.
Both are Class B misdemeanors, which carry penalties of up to six months in
But because the Johnson County District Attorney’s office prosecuted him
under the sodomy law, Rowe believes he has a case worth challenging. That law
applies to gay couples—and only gay couples—whether they are having an
anonymous tryst in a park bathroom or making love in their own bedrooms.
Rowe argues that singling out gays for special prosecution violates the
14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says that no state can
"deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of
Rowe’s attorney, Darrell Smith, submitted an appeal to the Kansas Court
of Appeals this past September, emphasizing in his brief that "Kansas has
no legitimate interest in channeling the majority’s animosity for the
homosexual community into criminal sanctions for simply being
But the three-judge panel disagreed, ruling on December 6 that homosexuals
could be treated differently from heterosexuals because they are not a
"suspect or quasi-suspect class under the Kansas Constitution."
Smith laughs at the thought. "That’s their take on it," he
summarizes. "Homosexuals are not a group."If homosexuals were a
suspect class—a status granted based on race, for example—the state would
have to prove that discriminating against them serves "a compelling
governmental interest." If they’re not a suspect class, though, it’s
easier for the state to show that the law has "a rational relationship to
a legitimate objective." The appellate court apparently agreed with the
lower court’s opinion that the sodomy statute "advanced the government’s
legitimate interest of promoting morality and suppressing AIDS."
Rowe disagrees and wants to press his case. He thinks he has a good
argument, one that will emasculate the law under which anal and oral sex are
fine for married couples, eighteen-year-old boys and geriatric widows, or any
other male-female coupling—but not for gays and lesbians.The last year
sodomy was illegal in every state was 1951. By 1986, 26 states had repealed
their sodomy laws. Although oral and anal sex are still forbidden in thirteen
states, only four of them—Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma—make a
clear distinction between heterosexual and homosexual sodomy.
Arkansas was the most recent convert. In July 2002, its Supreme Court ruled
in favor of seven gay men and lesbians who had filed a lawsuit to overturn the
"It’s one thing to be behind the curve. It’s another to be behind
the curve and behind Arkansas," Smith says of the Kansas and Missouri
If Smith will cut him a deal on his mounting legal fees, Rowe is willing to
pursue his own case as far as it takes to make the point.
If he wins, it’s not going to return the 75 days he spent in jail. It’s
not going to salve the embarrassment he felt at having the details of his park
"I’ve served my time and I’ve served my probation, and there’s
nothing that can be done about me. I don’t want this hanging over the heads
of my brothers and sisters in the community," Rowe says.
Much is at stake. If the Kansas Supreme Court hears Rowe’s case and
upholds the appellate court’s decision, it could conceivably open the door
for discrimination against homosexuals, Smith says.
"If homosexuals are not a group, not a class, not a suspect class,
doesn’t that mean it is perfectly fine to discriminate against them in
employment?" Smith asks. "Doesn’t that mean they should not be
allowed to adopt children because they are committing criminal conduct in
their home? If the Supreme Court adopts their stance, doesn’t that leave us
with that potential ripple effect?"
The 55-year-old Rowe spent most of his life deeply closeted. In the 1960s
and ‘70s, parks were among the few places men could meet other men
interested in homosexual encounters. Rowe, who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas,
admits he was a frequent visitor to the Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park,
Rosedale Park, Shawnee Mission Park and Antioch Park.
Rowe had, in fact, already been convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior,
having shown his penis to an undercover cop at another park bathroom on June
As the Pitch noted in a 2001 story, Rowe isn’t necessarily the model
citizen gay-rights advocates might have hoped for to make their case
("Unprotected Sex," December 6, 2001).
The same could be said about the people busted in a porn emporium outside
St. Louis, who may end up overturning Missouri’s sodomy law. Among them are
a man and a woman who are married.
Award Video wasn’t the kind of place people patronized with pride.
Open for more than a dozen years, the porn house in High Ridge, a town on the
southwestern edge of St. Louis, catered to the raw side of human sexuality,
drawing customers who tended to park their cars in back and occasional
picketers who insisted the place was a breeding ground for rapists and child
The front was a run-of-the-mill sex shop, featuring videos, magazines,
blow-up dolls, lotions, leather and various rubber gadgets. More adventuresome
patrons went straight to the back.
There, for a $5 minimum, customers could cruise between private
video-viewing booths equipped with locking doors—the more money they paid,
the longer they could stay. Others watched porn videos on a big-screen
television in a nearby room; an $8 ticket was good for eight hours. A similar
room in the basement was reserved for couples.
Management billed the rooms as theaters, but there was a lot more than
watching going on.
The theaters and booths were places to have sex. The sparse décor—and
semen stains—reflected the purpose. Each booth held a paper-towel dispenser,
a plastic chair and a trash can. The theaters were equipped with little more
than benches and wastebaskets.
Award Video was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And on March 13,
2002, there was plenty of action.
About twenty people were in the store just before 10 p.m. that Wednesday
night. The basement theater was empty, but at least eight people had gathered
in the 10-foot-by-20-foot ground-floor room. Four men stood in a semicircle
around a woman, who performed oral sex and masturbated them. She was blond and
looked to be in her late twenties. Attractive. Call her Lori.
"We were just playing around and having fun," she says, speaking
on the condition that her name not be published.
One of the men gathered around Lori that night was her husband. Tall and
rugged, Glenn—also a pseudonym—looks a bit like Sam Elliott. Married a
little more than a year ago, the couple appears very much in love, often
holding hands while discussing a night they’d rather forget. He has her name
tattooed on his chest. "We’re open-minded," Glenn explains,
leaving the rest to the imagination. "We like to meet people."
Glenn and Lori had driven more than an hour from a small town two counties
away to reach Award Video, which they’d discovered through an advertisement
in a swingers’ magazine. There was nothing like it where they lived. This
was their fourth visit. Fueled by a shared half-pint of vodka, they were more
than ready to roll.
The men in the theater didn’t limit their attention to Lori. As time
passed, the men began masturbating and fellating each other. Then two men
walked in. Almost immediately, Glenn sensed that something was wrong.
"They looked aggressive and hostile," Glenn recalls. "I
thought they might be queer-bashers." He was worried enough to leave the
party. "As soon as they came in, [Glenn] got weirded out and said, ‘Let’s
go,’" Lori says. The couple retreated to a bathroom.
The newcomers surveyed the theater, taking mental notes that would later
appear in police reports, court documents and news broadcasts. They were
undercover officers with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and they
had arrived to shut down Award Video. While Glenn and Lori washed up, the
officers moved to a booth, where they called a waiting raid team that normally
served drug-search warrants. This would be a by-the-book operation.
Surprise was easy; Award Video had no windows. The only warning came when
Bill (who asked that his real name not be published), an Award clerk who had
stopped by as a patron on his day off, glanced at a surveillance monitor
behind the front counter and spotted someone outside running toward the door.
He looked like just another horny guy.
"I was talking to the clerk on duty," Bill recalls. "I went,
‘I guess this guy’s really in a hurry to get in here’—those were my
exact words. So [the other clerk] started laughing: ‘Yeah, they’re always
in a hurry.’"
No one could just walk into Award Video. Rather, customers were required to
present identification and buy $1 membership cards before a clerk buzzed them
into the store from an alcove. Because the other clerk was busy, Bill went to
the alcove window to make the appropriate checks. "I opened the window,
and the next thing I know there’s a gun and a badge and a gray-haired man
with very piercing blue eyes and a very pissed-off look on his face saying,
‘Open the door or I’m going to kick it down,’" Bill says.
At least nine cops swarmed through the building, guns drawn, ordering
everyone to hit the floor. The memory draws a wry smile from Bill. "We
tried to keep that place clean, but with as much traffic that came in, the
last place you want your face is on the floor of an adult-video store,"
he says. "They immediately cuffed us and told us to lay on our
One by one, the deputies collected identification from the people in the
store. They weren’t satisfied with Glenn’s driver’s license. "The
cops took my freaking wallet and found pictures of my wife," he says.
Lori wasn’t wearing clothes in the photographs, which apparently fascinated
the deputies. "They started passing around pictures of me—sexy
shots," Lori says. "I felt humiliated, pissed off, embarrassed. I
have no problem with my husband having pictures of me, but they’re not for
"It’s nobody’s business but who we choose," she adds.
As far as Lori and Glenn are concerned, the same rule should apply to what
goes on in places such as Award Video. "I don’t believe any person on
this earth has any right to have an opinion on someone’s sexual preferences,
as long as it’s not a child and you’re not hurting anyone," she says.
Not so, says Jefferson County Prosecutor Robert G. Wilkins, who is
determined to put a stop to sex in public places, even if it means using one
of the most homophobic laws in the nation.
Glenn, Bill and four other men accused of having sex together in the Award
Video theater stand charged with first-degree sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor
carrying a maximum penalty of a year in jail, plus a huge stigma.
Lori, however, hasn’t been charged with a crime, even though she was
doing the same things at the same place at the same time as the men who have
become reluctant combatants in a fight to legalize homosexuality in Missouri.
Once at the Jefferson County jail, the people who had been arrested
were removed from their cells, read their Miranda rights and individually
interrogated. The tenor ranged from reassuring to threatening.
"They told me, ‘Look, if you cooperate, it will go away,’"
Bill recalls. "‘We don’t want you—we want the owners. If you don’t
cooperate, we’re going to parade you and your family and everybody through
the media and make your life a living hell.’"
Bill confessed, telling the cops everything he had done and seen in the
theater. He says he didn’t think he had a choice. "They told me they
had video evidence, that one of the officers had a digital camera with him at
the time," Bill recalls. "If I didn’t cooperate with them, they
were going to take me into court and put those videos in one after the other
and just make me a fool in front of everybody that was there."
Deputies also played tough with Lori, who was on probation for a
drug-possession offense. They told her that her probation would be revoked and
she’d land in prison if she didn’t play ball. The threat worked.
"I was falling apart," Lori recalls. "I’m the only
freaking girl there, just bawling. I told them the truth about what we
witnessed." The cops pressed for more, telling her that her husband had
engaged in anal intercourse and paid for sex. They also accused Lori of being
a prostitute, with a pimp for a husband. (Lori’s worst fear proved
unfounded. Since the raid, she says, the state Department of Corrections has
relaxed her probation supervision, and her probation officer has recommended
that she be released from probation early.)
The booking charges looked impressive: prostitution, promoting
prostitution, drug possession, sexual misconduct.
None of the prostitution cases stuck; there was a lack of evidence.
Despite what deputies might have said during interrogations, no owners were
charged. Indeed, Chris Morse—who managed the business with his wife, Debra—was
among the first released from jail. According to inspection reports from the
Jefferson County Health Department, the Morses also owned at least part of
Award Video. The drug-possession beefs amounted to two men found with tiny
amounts of pot. Both were charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
That left the people who were caught with their pants down.
Two weeks after the raid, Wilkins filed charges of sexual misconduct
against six men who’d been in the theater. He’s almost apologetic.
"I’m perhaps more offended by the conduct of the woman who was not
prosecuted," Wilkins says. "If we could have prosecuted the woman
who was there, I would have done it." But state law, the prosecutor says,
left him no choice.
There’s no outright ban on public sex in Missouri. The law says the
conduct must be likely to cause "alarm or affront"—hardly the case
in an establishment at which signs inside and outside make it clear that the
business is all about sex. But the law does make gay sex illegal, be it in an
adult bookstore or a bedroom. At least, Wilkins thinks so.
In 1986 the state Supreme Court upheld the law, dismissing arguments that
it violated equal-protection guarantees. According to its ruling in State of
Missouri v. Walsh, criminalizing same-gender sex is fair because the law
applies equally to lesbians and male homosexuals. The court also said the law
was needed to prevent AIDS from spreading.
"It was a really outrageous decision," says Arlene Zarembka, a
St. Louis attorney who argued the case on behalf of the American Civil
Then the legislature changed the law. Today, the statute is a case of
"A person commits the crime of sexual misconduct in the first degree
if he has deviate sexual intercourse with another person of the same sex or he
purposely subjects another person to sexual contact or engages in conduct
which would constitute sexual contact except that the touching occurs through
the clothing without that person’s consent."
Zarembka argues that the phrase without that person’s consent must apply
to the entire statute, not just to the part about touching someone through his
clothes. Otherwise, she says, sex, no matter the circumstances, would be
illegal in Missouri.
Previously the ban on gay sex stood alone in a subsection of the
sexual-misconduct law, leaving no doubt that homosexuals were criminals. But
legislators who were updating sex statutes eliminated the subsections and
bunched everything into one sentence. During the same 1994 session (and again
in 1998), lawmakers also turned down a proposal to legalize same-sex
Only after a 1999 state appeals-court decision did it become clear that
lawmakers might have inadvertently legalized homosexual sex. The case that is
now cited as a landmark flew under everyone’s radar.
The case centered on whether William Henry Cogshell Jr., a Kansas City man
convicted of several sexual offenses, was guilty of sexual misconduct for
having sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. Cogshell didn’t argue that he hadn’t
committed statutory sodomy, so those two felony convictions stood. But he did
appeal two sexual-misconduct convictions, saying he wasn’t guilty of those
because the boy had consented.
John Munson Morris, the assistant attorney general who handled the case,
"The State agrees that the evidence was insufficient to support the
appellant’s convictions for sexual misconduct because it did not establish
that the sexual contact between the appellant and [the boy] was not
consensual," the Western District Court of Appeals ruled in a unanimous
After the ruling, state Attorney General Jay Nixon asked the appeals court
to amend the ruling to make it clear that consent didn’t apply in cases
involving same-gender sex. Nixon said that even though he didn’t necessarily
agree with the law, it was his job to enforce the legislature’s intent,
which was to outlaw sex between people of the same gender. But it was too
late. The court wouldn’t budge, and Nixon didn’t risk an appeal to the
state Supreme Court, which could have decided the issue once and for all.
Nixon’s office declined comment for this story. "We’re not going
to make any kind of comment on legal strategy that we didn’t use on that
case," says spokesman Scott Holste.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Wilkins says the defendants crossed a line
by having sex in a room where anyone could watch or participate.
"The law is really a privacy issue, and you can’t claim privacy if
you’re doing it in a public place," he says. "Just rent a room,
for goodness’ sake. Rent a viewing room for a quarter and do it—they could
avoid this by going into a freaking booth at Award Video."
Lori and Glenn say they don’t understand Wilkins’ logic. After all,
passersby couldn’t accidentally stumble in—anyone wishing to enter the
theater knew what was going on, and they had to be buzzed in by a clerk after
buying a ticket. Plus, the cops busted people throughout the store.
"They’re full of crap," Lori says. "They raided the
private booths, too."
Wilkins says he’s concerned about the public-health implications of
anonymous group sex. "In some cases, it’s the government’s
responsibility to protect people in spite of themselves," he says.
Glenn and Lori say that’s ridiculous. "Everyone there was wearing a
condom," Glenn says.
Wilkins has offered to reduce the charges to peace disturbance with a
recommendation for suspended imposition of sentence. That way, the men won’t
be convicted of sexual offenses, they won’t stand trial and their court
records won’t be open to the public.
"We’re trying to make this go away as quietly and as quickly as
possible for these people," Wilkins says. "They have to make a
The defendants haven’t bitten. All have pleaded not guilty. No trial date
has been set.
And a half-dozen guys busted in a dirty bookstore aren’t the most
respectable poster boys for Missouri’s gay community.
"There were some people who were concerned that we shouldn’t be
linking ourselves or associating ourselves with this," says Jeff Wunrow,
executive director of For the Personal Rights of Missourians (PROMO).
"Like it or not, these are the sorts of facts that give us the cases we
need to prosecute ... I think we can talk about it without condoning or
condemning what they did."
Although she calls the defendants "brave" for fighting the
charges, there’s a difference between the defendants and gays throughout the
state who could benefit if the statute is struck down, says Denise D.
Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern
"I’m talking about people who don’t set foot in these seedy
joints," she says.
Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis have anti-discrimination ordinances,
but homosexuals elsewhere in the state may be denied housing or jobs on the
basis of their sexual orientation. Even though no one in Missouri has been
prosecuted for having same-gender sex in private, a law decreeing that gay sex
is illegal is a big hurdle, Lieberman says. "There’s a lot of important
reasons for that law to be struck down. It prevents us from enacting other
laws promoting equality. It justifies courts’ denying custody and parenting
rights to gays and lesbians because they’re criminals."
As in Missouri, the Kansas sodomy law has evolved over the years.
In 1855, Kansas Territorial Laws called sodomy "a crime against
nature," punishable by confinement and hard labor not less than ten
years." More than a hundred years later, in 1969, legislators redefined
sodomy as "oral or anal copulation between persons who are not husband
and wife or consenting adult members of the opposite sex, or between a person
and an animal, or coitus with an animal." In 1983, the Kansas Legislature
changed the criminal sodomy law, adding the words "members of the same
Activists have made little effort to convince the heavily Republican Kansas
Legislature to change or repeal the law. "I don’t think anything has
been done," says Steve Brown, president of the Kansas Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgendered Democratic Caucus, a special-interest group
lobbying for equal treatment for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered
persons. "Repealing sodomy laws is not high on the Republican
At the moment, all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard a
challenge to Texas’ homosexual conduct law and is expected to rule in June.
Gay rights advocates hope the court will overturn its 1986 ruling in Bowers v.
Unlike Robert Rowe and the Award Video defendants, Atlanta bartender
Michael Hardwick was arrested while having sex in the privacy of his own home.
A police officer had gone to Hardwick’s house at 3 a.m. to serve Hardwick
with a warrant for drinking in public. Hardwick’s roommate opened the door
for the officer, who then found Hardwick and another man having oral sex in a
bedroom. The officer arrested the two men under Georgia’s sodomy law.
Hardwick took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him 5-4.
In a majority opinion written by Justice Byron R. White, the court refused
to acknowledge that gay Americans had "a fundamental right to engage in
homosexual sodomy." Chief Justice Warren E. Burger added that to rule in
Hardwick’s favor "would be to cast aside millennia of moral
Writing for the four dissenters, however, Justice Harry A. Blackmun
criticized his colleagues’ "almost obsessive focus on homosexual
activity" and mentioned another Supreme Court ruling that was overturned
within three years.
"I can only hope that here, too, the Court soon will reconsider its
analysis and conclude that depriving individuals of the right to choose for
themselves how to conduct their intimate relationships poses a far greater
threat to the values most deeply rooted in our Nation’s history than
tolerance of nonconformity could ever do. Because I think the Court today
betrays those values, I dissent," Blackmun wrote.
The ruling mobilized gay activists across the country, who have been doing
their best to rewrite state law books. Missouri’s PROMO was founded within
days of the decision.
The current Texas case is a rerun of Bowers v. Hardwick. Police arrived at
John Lawrence’s Houston home after a neighbor filed a false report of a
domestic disturbance. The officer discovered Lawrence and Tyron Garner having
sex, and the men were later convicted of misdemeanors and fined $200 each.
They appealed their convictions but were refused by the Texas Supreme Court.
If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against Texas in June, states will be
forced to reevaluate their lingering sodomy laws.
Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western
Missouri, says that the court’s willingness to take the case bodes well for
the defendants. "Unless they want to make things better, they wouldn’t
take this same issue," Kurtenbach says of the justices.
If the Supreme Court does throw out the Texas law, it could do so with two
arguments, Wunrow says. The court might rule based on privacy, saying the
state has no business involving itself in what goes on between consenting
adults in their own homes. Or it might turn to the concept of equal
protection, saying that homosexuals have the same right to oral sex that
If the court rules based on equal protection, the states could
recriminalize heterosexual sodomy to make things equal.
But that seems far-fetched, even in prudish Missouri and Kansas.
"It is unlikely Kansas and Missouri will criminalize all sexual
behavior except the missionary position," says Alex Flemington, president
of the Four Freedoms Democratic Club, Kansas City’s main political
organization for gays and lesbians.
But Wunrow won’t rule it out, at least in the governmental halls of
Jefferson City. "I’m sure a notion like that would get some
votes," he says.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department considers its raid on Award
Video a success.
"We enforced the law," says Major Mark Tuljetske. He says the
cops acted on complaints from citizens who had heard that people were having
sex inside the theater. But there has long been evidence that people were
having sex inside Award Video and at two other adult businesses in the county
with theaters, private booths or both. At the request of the sheriff’s
department, for example, a Jefferson County health inspector had visited three
adult businesses—including Award Video, Bobbie’s Books and Dr. Video,
which also has a theater—in May and June 2000. Shining a black light in the
booths and theaters, public-health specialist Joe W. Hainline found semen
stains on the floors, walls, chairs and video monitors of theaters in private
booths. Despite the findings, no one was arrested until the raid in March
2002. And no one has been arrested since.
On a recent Saturday night at Dr. Video, seven men sat in plastic deck
chairs and watched a woman perform oral sex on a man. Her blouse and shorts
were unbuttoned; he was fully clothed, with his fly open. The floor was sticky
concrete; the walls were easy-to-wipe-clean white tile. Ceiling fixtures
emitted plenty of light. The spectators remained silent and clothed. Arms
folded, legs crossed, they could have been taking in a Sunday-morning sermon.
The man at the center of attention uttered something about not wanting to
climax, and he and his partner left. A few seconds passed, and it became clear
that this was not an isolated instance. "They were sure better than the
last couple," someone said, prompting a few chuckles and nods. The room
fell silent as patrons waited for more live action to begin.
Tuljetske says he isn’t surprised that people are still having sex in
Jefferson County’s adult businesses. Even though the prosecutor says he can’t
charge heterosexuals who have sex in a setting where no one would be shocked,
Tuljetske sees matters differently. He also sees a distinction between group
sex and couple sex.
"If you have two people who are consenting adults doing something
together, it’s different than if you told me that the woman was going from
guy to guy to guy," Tuljetske says.
Wouldn’t everyone presumably be consenting, though?
"Technically, yes," the major answers. "But there’s a
thing about the group thing ... in a public place. The consent would not only
have to come from everybody involved but everybody witnessing. This is the
same deal that we ran into in what used to be Award Video."
The bottom line, Tuljetske says, is that the couple would have been
arrested had an officer been present because the officer would not have been a
consenting witness. If only men had been involved, Tuljetske says, deputies
would have considered more than just consent. "We would look at other
issues, health-department violations, things like that," he says.
Four of the people arrested at Award Video have vowed to fight.
"They’re the ones who disturbed the peace, not us," Glenn says.
He says he will dispute the charges on principle. Although the court record
would be closed to the public if he took the prosecutor’s deal, what’s
accessible to the criminal-justice system is a different matter. Glenn says he’s
worried about how he might be treated if he’s ever pulled over by a cop
whose routine records check pulls up the arrest. If the defendants take the
deal, their chances of getting arrests and convictions completely expunged are
nil, says Richard Sindel, attorney for the men who have accepted ACLU
Painful though it may be, they say they’ll fight all the way to the U.S.
Supreme Court if that’s what it takes to make sex between consenting adults,
no matter their gender, a legal act.
"I’m not a quitter," says Bill, who ventured into the theater
that night and is now charged with having sex with another man. "I was
raised to think if you’re right, you go for it, no matter what
Robert Rowe feels the same way.
In recent years, Rowe says, he began a twelve-step sexual-addiction
treatment program to cure him of his park-sex habit. Now he’s trying to
avoid liaisons like the one that landed him in jail. "I don’t practice
the lifestyle I used to," he says.
Georgian Michael Hardwick never was comfortable talking about his Supreme
Court celebrity and granted few interviews about his decision to fight. He
died in 1991 of an AIDS-related illness.
His nemesis, Michael Bowers, has also been reluctant to rehash their
litigation. But his actions speak for him.
In 1991, the Georgia attorney general rescinded a job offer he had made to
an Emory University law student when he found out that she and another woman
had celebrated a commitment ceremony before a rabbi and their friends and
family. He cited Bowers v. Hardwick in saying that to hire a lesbian would
violate Georgia’s moral standards.
The woman, Robin Shahar, sued him. She lost and exhausted her appeals in
1998 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her case.
But by then, Bowers had finally experienced defeat of his own.
The Republican gave up his seat as attorney general in 1997 to run for
governor of Georgia. But the campaign was doomed from the start when Bowers
admitted publicly that he’d had a decade-long affair with a woman who worked
in his office.
Kendrick Blackwood contributed to this story.
Letter: Law and Reorder
January 16-22, 2003
Bruce Rushton did an excellent job detailing the recent challenges to the
Kansas and Missouri sodomy laws. I commend both his extensive research and his
These laws are serious—at least their effect on gays and lesbians are.
President Clinton, who as governor of Arkansas signed into law the act which
was repealed in 2000, had the judgment to leave us with two Supreme Court
judges. Let’s hope that either Breyer or Ginsberg (I could see Souter as
well) writes the majority opinion striking down once and for all these ugly
- Marianne Seggerman, Mission
Letter: Head Games
January 16-22, 2003
Blow by blow: After reading Bruce Rushton’s "Head Cases"
(January 2), I was left with the unsettling feeling that there is really only
one side of the sodomy issue represented in the article.
Denise D. Lieberman and Jeff Wunrow are the advocates for queer rights who
oppose, in theory, the position of the moral right, led by Jefferson County
Prosecutor Robert G. Wilkins. Queer rights are well and good, Lieberman and
Wunrow seem to be saying, as long as you’re among the people "who don’t
set foot in" those "seedy joints" like Award Video or a
bathroom at Shawnee Mission Park. "We will take your courage,"
Lieberman and Wunrow seem to be saying to the defendants, "but you’re
really not a part of our community."
By adopting this view, Lieberman and Wunrow align themselves with the moral
right. They maintain the idea that some people are worth more than others.
They are, in essence, casting the first stone. In this way, the homophobia
they are supposedly attempting to combat is instead perpetuated. The
defendants have been charged with crimes that do not exist for heterosexual
sex; consequently, the defendants are made into less-than-American citizens.
They are subcitizens, savages, perverts. This travesty is the only aspect of
these cases that should be held up for the sake of judgment. This injustice is
all that should matter.
- Tom Jones, Kansas City, Missouri
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