Last edited: December 17, 2004

Alabama Sex Law Challenged

Advocate, May 16, 2002

Attorneys on behalf of two lesbians and two gay men on Monday filed a complaint in Montgomery, Ala., federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the state’s deviate sexual practices law, which criminalizes gay sex.

The four plaintiffs are remaining anonymous to protect their privacy. The complaint, authored by attorneys James Garland and David Gespass, charges that Alabama’s deviate sexual practices law violates the plaintiffs’ rights of free expression and association and the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as liberties protected by the Alabama constitution.

Since the 1970s, Alabama law has legalized all penile-vaginal sex, even between unmarried people, and has legalized oral and anal sex between any two people who are married to each other, according to Garland. The current law prohibiting "deviate sexual practices" criminalizes any oral or anal sex between unmarried persons, even if that sex is consensual.

Gespass told The Advocate that he had discussed challenging the law with his clients for years but that it was the recent remarks by Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, who called homosexuality "an inherent evil" in a March court ruling denying a lesbian mother custody of her children, that finally spurred them to action. "[Moore’s] remarks were completely inappropriate," said Gespass. "It kind of pushed us over the edge."

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