Editorial: Peeping Into Bedrooms
Salt Lake Tribune,
December 7, 2002
P.O. Box 867, Salt Lake City, UT 84110
Since 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to peer into the
bedrooms of gays and lesbians. This irrational state of affairs may soon be
corrected now that the court has decided to take a second look at state sodomy
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 1986 that a Georgia statute criminalizing
consensual sodomy was constitutional. Though the statute outlawed sodomy
outright, the court concentrated only on homosexual acts. The end result has
been illogical—heterosexual couples are free to do as they please in their
bedrooms; consenting gays are subject to arrest.
And they are arrested. The current case before the court involves two men
in Texas caught in flagrante after police arrived to check on a neighbor’s
false claim that a man was waving a gun in the house. The men were convicted
and fined for engaging in a consensual act of sodomy in a private home.
Now the justices will again decide if a state may criminalize such private
The argument for sodomy laws hasn’t changed since 1986. It is that sodomy
has been a crime since colonial times so it can’t possibly be a fundamental
right. But the same was also said of mixed-race marriages. The Supreme Court
finally saw past that error of history and abolished interracial marriage bans
The appeal to history is weak. By 1986, only 24 of 50 states maintained
sodomy laws. Today, 13 states (not including Georgia, but including Utah)
maintain such laws but few prosecute violations. Heterosexual, even
adulterous, couples may violate the law with little fear. The prosecutions
that do occur are typically aimed at gay couples.
As applied, then, it is not the act that is punished, but the choice of
partner. And government should have no right to perch at the end of a bed and
give a thumbs up or down to any aspect of an intimate relationship between
Sandra Day O’Connor sided with the majority in 1986. Three other current
justices would do the same today. The remaining five justices, however, would
be enough to kick the government camel out of the tents of gays and lesbians.
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