Repeal of States Sodomy Law Doubtful
Fayetteville Observer Times,
May 12, 1999
P. O. Box 849, Fayetteville, NC 28302
By Kim Nilsen, Raleigh Bureau
RALEIGH -- Proponents of a move to repeal the states law against
sodomy say the bill doesnt have the support needed to pass this year.
But advocates pushed for a Senate committee hearing on the bill anyway to draw
attention to the current law, which criminalizes certain sex acts by married couples and
"The point is the government has no business in our bedrooms," said Sen.
Ellie Kinnaird, the bill sponsor. Kinnaird called the debate one of the major civil rights
issues of the 1990s.
The Rev. Jimmy Creech, a Methodist minister forced from his Nebraska church for
performing a same-sex marriage, compared the provisions with Jim Crow laws used to
legalize segregation in the South.
North Carolina is one of 13 states with an anti-sodomy law covering both heterosexuals
and homosexuals. Similar laws have been repealed in a number of states. Courts have struck
down restrictions in other states, including Georgia and Tennessee.
Supporters of the existing law say it dates back more than 200 years and has stood the
test of time and court reviews.
Kinnairds bill would decriminalize oral and anal sex that takes place in private
between consenting adults and doesnt involve prostitution. Such "crimes against
nature" offenses are felonies in North Carolina, punishable by a minimum of four to
six months of community punishment.
"North Carolina needs to move into the 20th century," said Deborah Ross,
state director for the American Civil Liberties Union. But last month, House lawmakers
rejected a move to add protection for homosexuals to the states hate crime law.
Judging from that defeat, the sodomy bill stands little chance, said Sen. Brad Miller,
chairman of the Senate judiciary committee that discussed the bill on Tuesday. The
committee took no action.
Gay rights advocates say the law is used as a basis to discriminate against homosexuals
in the workplace and in child custody cases. "The law should protect people,"
Creech said. The potential of prosecution forces homosexuals to remain silent. Creech
asked lawmakers to repeal or refine the law. "It will help make a law that has been
designed to harm people less harmful," he said.
Advocates working to strike down the law argue that many married couples and
heterosexual adults are themselves offenders. Although few are charged with the crime, the
potential for prosecution is there. "This has got to be one of the silliest laws on
the books in North Carolina," said John Boddie, a lawyer from Greensboro who has
defended clients in crimes against nature cases. Laws against prostitution, rape and lewd
conduct could address much of the behavior people oppose, he said.
The bill was subject to a deadline last month for progress on non-money legislation.
Because it failed to pass out of the Senate on time, the bill is effectively dead for the
remainder of the two-year legislative cycle. It could go to a study commission for more
work, Miller said. But supporters say they dont expect change to come quickly.
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