Last edited: June 10, 2004

Sexual Freedom Activists Target ‘Archaic, Unjust’ Sex Laws, June 1, 2004

By Susan Jones, Morning Editor

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says it is time to repeal America’s “archaic and unjust” sex laws.

The Task Force announced it is taking part in a project to analyze sex laws throughout the United States and identify which ones need to go.

The point is 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,” the Task Force said in a press release.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said it is conducting the study of sex laws with help from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which describes itself as “a core group of experienced activists” dedicated to “advancing the cause of freedom in the fields of sexuality, civil rights and gender.”

According to its website, “The Woodhull Freedom Foundation brings together experienced, successful sexual freedom activists” who seek to eliminate governmental and private barriers “to expressions of human sexuality in the United States and around the world.”

‘Persecuting minorities’

“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 a Woodhull Freedom Foundation 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,” Berry said. “We believe that once people are educated on these issues, they will demand change.”

Organizers said the project will address laws such as the one in Michigan prohibiting unmarried people from having sex and living together; and one in Kansas, where the age of consent is different for males and females.

In addition, the project will examine laws against public lewdness, “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 [public lewdness] laws has ruined the lives of gay and bisexual men,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“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.”

The project will have two phases, organizers said. The first phase involves a study of the laws and how they have been “selectively used to target minorities.” Those findings will be released at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 17th annual conference in St. Louis in mid-November.

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, the press release said.

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