An Ever-Shifting Landscape
February 13, 1998 (excerpt)
by M. Jane Taylor
Repealing sex as crime
Crime is also an issue for Gay activists in another way. Twenty states still have laws
on the books that make it a crime for a person to engage in sex with a person of the same
gender and/or to engage in certain forms of sex other than heterosexual intercourse. Six
of those states criminalize sex between same-sex couples but not heterosexual couples:
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Maryland. This year, sodomy reform bills
are sitting in four statehouses: Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, and Massachusetts. None has
yet seen any action. The bills are not always introduced out of concern for the equal
rights of Gay couples, however. For instance, a bill to repeal the sodomy statute in
Georgia is sponsored by State Sen. Steve Langford, who, activists say, is registered as a
Democrat but has strong Libertarian leanings.
"Its coming from his desire to have less government legislation in
peoples bedrooms, an although it benefits us as Gay people, its a different
motivation," said Cindy Abel, executive director of the Georgia Equality Project.
"Its not necessarily because this guy is Gay-friendly."
Similarly, Minnesotas sodomy reform bill, introduced in 1997 (the Minnesota
legislature has two-year sessions), comes as part of a larger bill from the Senate Crime
Prevention Committee to update the state criminal. It was unsolicited by Gay activists.
According to Ken Backhus, Senate Counsel to the Crime Prevention Committee, the bill also
seeks to strike other statutes that are of "questionable constitutional merit,"
such as adultery and flag burning laws.
The Massachusetts sodomy reform bill has been inactive since September 1997
(Massachusetts also has two-year legislative sessions) and is likely dead. While Gay
activists are mobilizing to redraft the bill, they are divided over whether or not the
redraft should include language dealing with people arrested for engaging in sex in public
Some activists said they feel this would be too big of a political risk.
"Connecting the issue with public sex would essentially kill our ability to repeal
the sodomy laws," said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian
Meanwhile, national pro-Gay organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union
and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund have been side-stepping the legislatures
and mounting challenges to state sodomy laws on the judiciary front. Court battles for
sodomy repeal are currently being waged in Maryland, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and
Nicholas Boggs, Rhonda Smith, Kai Wright, and Christine Dinsmore contributed to this