Felony Law on Sodomy Debated
Advocates Of Change In N.C. Say Statute Used Selectively
Charlotte Observer, May 12, 1999
By Stephanie Gibbs, Raleigh Bureau
RALEIGH—North Carolina is one of 14 states that forbid sodomy
between consenting adults, and its likely to stay that way for a long time,
Proposals to repeal or soften the "crimes against nature" statute have failed
since 1993. This years bill—which wouldnt junk the law, but would allow
sodomy between consenting adults—also got stopped before a legislative deadline.
But that doesnt mean the debate has ended.
During a committee hearing Tuesday, several organizations spoke for and against the
proposal, even though it is dead for the rest of the two-year legislative session.
Gay-rights activists and others say the law is used to selectively prosecute
homosexuals, even though it also outlaws oral and anal sex between heterosexuals.
"What people do in the privacy of their homes is of absolutely no interest to the
General Assembly," Sean Haugh, state chairman of the Libertarian Party, told
But Bill Brooks, head of the N.C. Family Policy Council, likened the law to seat-belt
requirements. Both aim to protect people from physical harm, he said.
"The human body is not designed for homosexual acts. Its harmful to their
bodies," Brooks said.
"I think its the business of the government to hold up a standard and to
protect people from behavior that is harmful to themselves and society. It harms society
because it harms them. They are a part of society."
Sodomy is a felony in North Carolina and the penalty ranges from six months of
community service to 10 months in jail. It also is illegal in South Carolina and Virginia.
Observers on both sides of the issue say the political climate in North Carolina
suggests repeal is unlikely anytime soon.
"North Carolina is a very conservative state," said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird,
D-Orange, who sponsored this years proposal. Kinnaird said residents have
"burned up my e-mail," attacking her for backing the proposal.
Kinnairds proposal would have revamped the law so that sodomy would not be
illegal between consenting adults, as long as they did it in private and werent paid
to do it.
Sen. Brad Miller, D-Wake, who called for Tuesdays hearing, said he did so as part
of "continued discussion" of the issue. He said those pushing for repeal of the
sodomy law "expect to be working for another generation."
"The work we are doing is definitely for the long haul," said M.K. Cullen,
executive director of the Equality North Carolina Political Action Committee. The
organization, formerly N.C. Pride Political Action Committee, supports rights for gays and
Lawmakers in 25 other states have repealed sodomy laws, and appellate courts have
struck down the laws in seven more, said Deborah Ross of the N.C. chapter of the American
Civil Liberties Union.
Of 14 states that forbid sodomy, five—Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and
Kansas—ban it for homosexuals only, she said.
The law is being challenged in four states, she said, and repeal legislation is pending
in a fifth. The remaining states did not ban sodomy.
In 1997, a legislative commission recommended eliminating North Carolinas
"crimes against nature" statute, which also forbids sex with animals.
In Mecklenburg County, few are prosecuted for crimes against nature, Deputy District
Attorney Bart Menser said. But more than 500 a year are prosecuted for soliciting sex, a
misdemeanor, he said.
He said his records did not indicate whether those cases were for soliciting
prostitutes for intercourse, or for soliciting them for other forms of sex.
Menser said police in Mecklenburg County mostly use the law to clear parks and other
areas where people engage in sex.
"Often, the harm is not so much what theyre doing as where theyre
doing it," Menser said.
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