Last edited: January 02, 2005

Texans React to Sodomy Ruling

Dallas Morning News, June 27, 2003
Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265
Fax: 972-263-0456, Email:

By Katie Menzer, The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS (KRT)—For years, Woody Wood told people he left the U.S. Air Force because he wanted a career as a commercial airline pilot. He was too ashamed to tell the truth—he was forced out because he is gay.

“When it happened, I wanted to put a gun to my head,” said Wood, who served as a fighter pilot from 1957 to 1969 before resigning after Air Force officials discovered he was gay. “It was like the end of my world. I let it destroy me.”

Now, more than three decades later, Wood has a renewed hope for a society that grounded his ambition for a lifelong career protecting his country. The 68-year-old Dallas resident said he believes Thursday’s Supreme Court decision will open doors of opportunity for many other gays and lesbians.

“It’s a new day. It’s really exciting,” said Wood, talking with friends about the court’s landmark on Thursday. “This might open the dam for a lot of things to happen.”

The 6-3 majority opinion killed Texas’ Homosexual Conduct Law, which bans gay couples from engaging in sexual acts that are legal for heterosexual couples. It also strikes down sodomy laws in 12 other states.

Attorneys arguing against Texas’ law said it prevents gays from qualifying for jobs that involve security clearances and denies them legal benefits—including child custodies and adoptions—that depend on background checks.

Wood said such issues are no longer relevant for him—he’s retired. But the ruling will have a profound effect on his life, he said.

“I’ll have a bigger spring in my step and a little more pride,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with the court’s decision, though. Kelly Shackelford of Free Market Foundation, a Plano, Texas-based conservative policy group, said the nation is headed down the wrong path.

“Everybody knew they were going to strike it down, but we still think it’s a wrong decision,” the organization’s leader said. “You can read the Constitution as much as you want to, but you’re not going to find a right to engage in homosexual activity in the Constitution.”

For Dallas City Council member Ed Oakley—who is gay—the court has righted a wrong that should never have been added to state law books.

“I think it’s a decision that’s long overdue,” Oakley said. “I’m in public office, and there is a law on the books that makes me a criminal just because of my private life. It’s a freedom that should never have been legislated.”

The Rev. Michael Piazza of Dallas’ Cathedral of Hope—the world’s largest liberal Christian church with a predominantly lesbian, gay and transgender outreach—has been with his partner for 23 years. But when the couple decided to adopt a child 10 years ago, Piazza was forced to adopt her as a single parent.

“Although we’ve been together for 23 years, the law does not recognize that,” Piazza said.

He believes laws like that will soon change in light of Thursday’s decision.

“This is the beginning of the court recognizing that all taxpayers should be treated equally under the government,” he said.

For Colleyville, Texas, resident Randy Gregory, who is raising a child with his partner Kevin Boynton, the ruling won’t have much effect on his day-to-day existence. But he sees the court’s decision as an important, symbolic victory for the gay community.

“A lot of it is just mental, although there was always a threat in the background that something could happen just knowing that we’re considered less than other people,” the 50-year-old land surveyor said.

By removing the law, the courts have removed a powerful weapon from the hands of anti-gay groups and bigots, said Roger Wedell, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“This won’t change people’s hearts and minds, but it will change the law,” he said.

When Wood left the Air Force after serving in the Vietnam conflict, he earned his master’s of business administration and joined the corporate world as a management consultant. He said he often had to lie about his sexual orientation to employers to get or keep jobs or to protect his friends and family from bigotry.

He did not speak of the details of his Air Force discharge for more than two decades, although he dreamed—and still dreams—of flying.

“Living a lie is so hideous,” Wood said. “ . In my dreams, I still have my hand on the stick and the throttle.”

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