The Answer Isnt Always a New Crime on the Books
A Gay Rights Group Fights One Bad Law But Embraces Another
Greensboro News & Record,
March 26, 1999
P. O. Box 20848, Greensboro, NC 27420
Give Equality North Carolina points for courage. Homosexuality is a subject most
legislators wouldnt touch with a 20-foot gavel, but the gay rights group has been
outspoken in lobbying for tolerance and fair treatment for homosexuals.
This week, the groups supporters were out in force at the General Assembly to
push for two changes in state law they say would protect gays and lesbians from
harassment. First, they want to repeal the states antique law against sodomy.
Second, they want the states hate crime law to cover sexual orientation, gender and
disability as well as race and religion.
Unfortunately, Equality North Carolina is only half right this time around. The
anti-sodomy statute is bad law, but so is hate crime legislation. Ironically, the best
reason for striking the sodomy law from the books that its likely to be
enforced capriciously is also the reason lawmakers should resist trying to outlaw
Government has no business prying into the sex lives of consenting adults and
that includes gays and lesbians. North Carolinas law makes it a felony to
"commit a crime against nature," which courts have held to include oral sex.
Given that interpretation, married, heterosexual couples regularly engage in criminal
behavior. But when sodomy laws are enforced at all, they tend to be focused on homosexual
Hate crime laws are equally dubious. The problem is in their ambiguity. Just what is a
"hate crime"? It can be defined and enforced as the politics of
the moment dictate. The authorities should prosecute the attacker or the vandal for their
acts. If the motivation clearly was bigotry, let the judge consider that during
Its a shameful fact that homosexuals are hated, harassed and even killed. In
February, Billy Jack Gaither, a 39-year-old man living quietly in a small Alabama town,
was bludgeoned to death and burned because he was gay. Last fall, a 21-year-old University
of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, was killed, also for being gay.
Those are horrible crimes, deserving swift, severe punishment. But would the murder of
either man have been any less terrible if he had been killed for some other reason? The
important thing is that justice be done, that the authorities track down the attackers and
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