Last edited: November 15, 2003


Oro Valley Lawmaker Wants to Pull `Dumb' Sex Laws

Arizona Daily Star, February 5, 1998
P.O. Box 26887
Tucscon, AZ 85726 
Fax 602-573-4141

By Howard Fischer 
Capitol Media Services 

PHOENIX - No one knows when the last person was prosecuted for cohabitation in Arizona. And few could explain exactly what is a "lewd and lascivious act'' or "the infamous crime against nature.''

But Rep. Winifred "Freddie'' Hershberger, R-Oro Valley, is likely to cause a firestorm with her effort to repeal statutes that make those acts illegal. She also wants to decriminalize another sex act that has gotten a lot of attention in the media lately, courtesy of the president: adultery.

"It does seem dumb to have laws on the books that no one is paying any attention to,'' said Hershberger.

Anyway, she said, they may be unenforceable, citing the statute that makes it a crime to commit the "infamous crime against nature.''

"Whatever that is,'' she said.

Her interest, though, is in more than cleaning up the statutes. Hershberger agreed to sponsor the measure after being asked by the Arizona Human Rights Fund, the organization that lobbies on behalf of legislation for gay and lesbian causes.

Bill McDonald, the group's spokesman, said the laws do harm even though they are not enforced.

"They are used in nuanced ways to deny gays and lesbians job opportunities,'' he said. "People say, 'You people engage in illegal activities.' ''

That's where the "infamous crime'' has come in: When the law was enforced once upon a time - as recently as the 1970s - it was presumed to outlaw sodomy, including same-sex relations.

Hershberger has picked up support from both sides of the political aisle - and both ends of the political spectrum. That ranges from Rep. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, the state's only openly gay legislator, to House Majority Leader Lori Daniels, R-Chandler.

Daniels said repealing the laws fits with her conservative philosophy.

"I've always said that government interference in personal life is wrong,'' she said.

But Rep. Dan Schottel, R-Tucson, said there is a reason to keep these laws on the books, even if they aren't enforced. He said they are necessary to preserve "our morals and our ethics.''

That is the argument of the Center for Arizona Policy, a statewide organization that bills itself as a "public policy group dedicated to strengthening the family.''

"It sends the wrong message to repeal that type of law,'' said Len Munsil, the group's president.

"It may be that the law is not enforced. But the law sets a moral standard.'' 

Not all legislators, though, believe that is a legitimate reason for the statutes. 

"The broader philosophy is what is government's role with regard to morality - and the government's role in the bedroom,'' said Rep. Barry Wong, R-Phoenix. He said that those who call themselves conservatives should be consistent in their belief that the state shouldn't be legislating these issues, "regardless of your views of these types of activities between adults.''

That concept, though, doesn't sit well with Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa.

"We legislate morality every day,'' she said. "It's either my morality or somebody else's morality.''

Nor is she willing to leave these issues to spiritual rather than legal guidance.

"I believe that certain churches have abdicated their responsibility in that area.'' 

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