Anti-Gay Sex Laws Remain on the Books in Many States
May 31, 2004
By Doreen Brandt, 365Gay.com Newscenter, Washington
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
“I’ve seen firsthand how the misuse of these laws has
ruined the lives of gay and bisexual men,” said Matt Foreman, NGLTF
“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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