Calls for Arrest of Openly-Gay GOP Convention Speaker Reveal Danger of Sodomy Laws
Nationwide, ACLU Says
Liberties Union, July 31, 2000
For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Ferrero, (212) 549-2568
NEW YORK, NYAs one of the nations largest conservative
groups called for the arrest of an openly-gay Republican Congressman who is slated to
speak tomorrow night at the Republican national convention in Philadelphia, the American
Civil Liberties Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Project today said there can no longer
be any doubt about the imminent danger posed by sodomy laws.
In recent days, the American Family Association began circulating an action alert,
titled "Arrest Mr. Kolbe." The alert notes that Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) is
scheduled to address the GOP convention tomorrow night. It also notes that sodomy is
illegal in Arizona.
"Time and time again when we file lawsuits challenging sodomy laws, conservative
groups argue that these laws are not enforced and do not present any real dangerbut that they should remain on the books to send a moral message," said Michael
Adams, Associate Director of the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
"By issuing this callous alert, the right wing has demonstrated the very real
danger of sodomy lawsthat they can be used to try to intimidate and silence lesbian and
gay Americans," Adams said. "If a Republican member of Congress is not safe from
such attacks, then who is?"
The American Family Associations alert includes a sample letter, addressed to the
Chairman of the Republican Party, which says in part, "... Mr. Kolbe as a
self-described homosexual means nothing except to say that he engages in sodomy. Did you
know that in Arizona, sodomy is against the law? Mr. Kolbe should be arrested when he
returns to his home state for violating state law. Would you agree that all lawmakers
should insist that all laws be enforced?"
The alert then provides an address for other members to send similar letters. The
American Family Association, which is based in Mississippi, wields increasing political
power. In recent years, the groups leadership has met regularly with Republican
majority leadership in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
One of the starkest examples of the dangers of sodomy laws comes from the American
Family Associations home state, Adams said. Mississippi courts, citing that
states sodomy law, refused to allow a 15-year-old boy to live with his gay father,
even though the childs mother had married a man with a history of violence and
substance abuse who repeatedly beat her in front of the boy.
Currently, 18 states and Puerto Rico have sodomy laws. The specific natures of the laws
vary, as do punishments, but they all criminalize private, consensual, non-commercial oral
or anal sex between adults. Five states have laws that apply only to lesbians and gay men.
While the other 13including Arizonaapply to straight people as well, they are
enforced selectively against lesbians and gay men.
The ACLU has successfully helped challenge sodomy laws in Maryland, Georgia, Montana,
Tennessee and Kentucky in recent years. Last month, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit
challenging Minnesotas sodomy law, and later this summer the ACLU will try to take
its challenge to Puerto Ricos sodomy law to the Commonwealths Supreme Court.
Eric Ferrero, Public Education Director The American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian and
Gay Rights Project/AIDS Project
125 Broad St., 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004-2400
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