Last edited: May 31, 2004

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Woodhull Freedom Foundation Announce Joint Effort Study of U.S. Sex Laws

May 28, 2004

Media Contacts: 

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force                   Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Sheri A. Lunn                                                          (323) 857-8751                                                    Judy Guerin (202) 494-9555 or                                    Jeff Montgomery (313) 506-1847

Washington, D.C.The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force) and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Federation (WFF) today announced the launch of a joint project to analyze sex laws throughout the U.S. The project will serve a dual purposeto 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.

“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.”

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

“I’ve seen firsthand how the misuse of these laws has ruined the lives of gay and bisexual men,” said Matt Foreman, the Task Force’s 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 have two phases. The first, a study of the laws with and case studies of how the laws have been selectively used to target minorities will be released at the Task Force’s 17th Annual Creating Change Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, November 11-14. The second phase will include policy analysis, recommendations, and strategies for grassroots activists to use in overturning the laws or changing the way in which they are enforced.


Founded in 1973, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and advocacy organization and remains the movement's leading voice for freedom, justice, and equality. We work to build the grassroots political strength of our community by training state and local activists and leaders and organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation. Our Policy Institute, the community's premiere think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a world that respects and makes visible the diversity of human expression and identity where all people may fully participate in society. Headquartered in Washington, DC, we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Cambridge.

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is devoted to education and public advocacy in support of the proposition that safe and consensual sexual expression is a fundamental human right. Based in Washington, DC, WFF brings together experienced, successful sexual freedom activists who seek to eliminate the barriers, governmental and private, to expressions of human sexuality in the United States and around the world. Helping to mobilize diverse grassroots communities, WFF utilizes lobbying, outreach, and education to help change antiquated and unjust sex laws. WFF supports civil liberties, emphasizing issues of sexual expression, sexual orientation, gender and racial discrimination.

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