Measure To Repeal State Sodomy Law Approved By Senate Judiciary Panel
Newport Daily News, Friday, May 22, 1998
Newport, RI 02840
By Joe Baker, Daily News Staff
PROVIDENCE -- The State Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to repeal the
state's 100-year-old law criminalizing sodomy, calling it unconstitutional.
The 9-to-2 vote put supporters a step closer to their goal. The full Senate will debate
the bill next week, probably Thursday. Advocates believe they have the votes to push the
legislation through the Senate and to Gov. Lincoln Almond. The House of Representatives
already has voted to repeal the law.
According to a source close to the governor, Almond will let the bill become law
without his signature.
Opponents of the bill put on a last-ditch effort to kill the bill, trying to convince
committee members that the bill was immoral. Sodomy is defined as oral and anal sex.
David K. Gadoury, pastor of the Cranston Christian Fellowship, said the bill was
"a sinister movement to approve same-sex marriages."
Also, Philip H. Curtis, pastor of the 300-member Exeter Chapel, said, "You are
opening a Pandora's Box and the intention is to move one step after another to allow
homosexual marriages in the state."
Another opponent is Joanne McOsker, president of Catholics for Life. "I can't
believe we're talking about this horrific bill," she said. "How far have we come
down the slippery road of evil?"
Opponents said the law was a deterrent to those who would have sex in public and would
force themselves on children. Repealing it would be sending the wrong message to children,
But supporters told a different story--that the law was unevenly enforced and that it
unfairly penalizes handicapped people who may have no other way to continue a physical
relationship with their loved ones. There are already laws against any kind of sex in
public and child molestation, they said.
"There is no reason why this should be enforced for unmarried adults and not for
married adults if this conduct is truly injurious to the public," said J. Richard
Ratcliffe, an attorney representing the American Bar Association.
Sen. John Roney, D-Providence, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the
law has historically been selectively enforced.
"This law is essentially like a speed trap," Roney said. "It waits to
trap the unwary or the unlucky. It is the antithesis of what we really are. We are not a
government of law; we are a government of men because it is a person who decides who will
Three different Superior Court judges have, in recent years, pressed the General
Assembly to act on what they call an unconstitutional law, Roney said. Several committee
members cited that when they voted for the bill.
"The issue tonight is the repeal of an antiquated, clearly unconstitutional
statute," said committee chairwoman Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport.
"We can talk about the different problems that may arise, but the bottom line is
that the law violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and
the Rhode Island Constitution," said Sen. Patrick T. McDonald, D-South Kingstown.
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