Last edited: May 31, 2004

Old Anti-Gay Sex Laws Remain on the Books in Many States, May 31, 2004

By Doreen Brandt, Newscenter, Washington Bureau

Washington—Despite the landmark ruling by the US Supreme Court last year that overturned laws against sodomy many states still retain old laws on the books that target gay sex.

In an effort to determine just how many states have anti-gay sex laws and how they are being used two civil rights groups are embarking on a major project to scour criminal law books across the country.

The laws which the project will address range from the archaic—like Michigan’s law prohibiting unmarried people from having sex and living together—to the grossly unjust—like Kansas’ differing age of consent laws based on the gender of the persons involved—to those addressing facially valid public policy concerns—like laws against public lewdness, but which are routinely misused to persecute and prosecute people who participate in non-traditional forms of sexual expression.

Last week the Kansas Supreme Court said it would revisit the case of Matthew Limon a gay teenager who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for consensual sex. (story) Limon would have been given a maximum of 15 months in jail under the Kansas law had the other teenager been female.

The study is being conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Federation.

“This project will be a significant step toward eliminating unjust laws that are used almost exclusively for the purpose of persecuting minorities,” said Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and WFF board member.

“Most Americans are unaware of the sex laws in this country and how those laws are used to selectively persecute individuals simply for their private and consensual sexual expression. We believe that once people are educated on these issues, they will demand change,” said Berry.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the misuse of these laws has ruined the lives of gay and bisexual men,” said Matt Foreman, NGLTF Executive Director.

“Few victims of this abuse ever come forward for fear of further embarrassment and the system counts on this silence. We intend to shine some light on these shameful practices.” Foreman served as Executive Director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, the nation’s largest gay victim assistance agency, from 1990-1996, and is a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission.

The project will serve a dual purpose—to educate Americans about the prevalence and abuse of antiquated and unjust sex laws in the nation, and to give grassroots activists policy and organizing tools to work to change these laws.

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