Last edited: December 07, 2004

Suit Challenges Alabama Sexual Misconduct Law

Associated Press, May 15, 2002

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—A lawsuit filed on behalf of two gay men and two lesbians challenges the state’s sexual misconduct law as unconstitutional.

Those bringing the suit were not named but identified as a gay law student in Tuscaloosa, a gay Birmingham man, a lesbian professor at the University of Alabama and a lesbian in a child-custody case. Their attorney, David Gespass of Birmingham, filed suit in federal court Tuesday against Attorney General Bill Pryor as the state official charged with upholding the sodomy law.

The plaintiffs allege that the law violates equal protection and free expression rights, among others.

Pryor said he will oppose the lawsuit.

"In 1986, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled there is no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy. That is the law of this land. I will therefore defend Alabama law aggressively," Pryor said.

The crime known in many states as sodomy is called sexual misconduct in Alabama. It is a misdemeanor banning acts of oral or anal sex between adults not married to each other.

Since apartment leases state that the tenant agree to abide by all laws, the sodomy statute prevents the plaintiffs from signing a lease, the suit says.

The suit said the challenged statute doesn’t make express reference to lesbians, gay men or homosexuality, but the Alabama Supreme Court has twice interpreted the law to mean that the "lifestyle" and homosexual conduct are "illegal" under the statute.

The suit makes reference to Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s statement earlier this year that homosexual conduct is an "inherent evil." Moore described homosexuality as "abhorrent, immoral, detestable" in a lengthy separate opinion he wrote as he joined a unanimous Alabama Supreme Court ruling denying a lesbian mother custody of her three children.

The suit says Alabama has "fostered a statewide atmosphere in which anti-gay discrimination and violence can and does flourish, and has endorsed the notion that lesbians and gay men are second-class citizens."

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