Last edited: December 31, 2004


LLDEF Targets Arkansas Sodomy Law

PlanetOut, January 28, 1998

By NewsPlanet Staff

SUMMARY: Lambda's litigators -- and 7 very brave people -- will take up the fight against Arkansas' law prohibiting same-gender sex acts...the law that got by Bill.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is filing a lawsuit today on behalf of seven gays and lesbians in the hope of striking down Arkansas' sodomy law. It's one of only six such state laws applying exclusively to same-gender sex acts, although almost half the states have non-gender-specific sodomy laws. Although violations of the Arkansas law are only misdemeanors, they are punishable by up to one year in jail and $1,000 -- and the law's ramifications extend far beyond any actual enforcement.

Lambda staff attorney Suzanne Goldberg said, "This law creates a second-class status for lesbians and gay men, criminalizing intimate, sexual behavior that is perfectly legal for non-gay people. The Arkansas sodomy statute is used to cause terrible harm to gay people, depriving gay parents of custody of their children and putting people at risk of losing their professional licenses, their jobs, and their homes, simply for engaging in sexual intimacy with a loved one."

Lambda intends to show that the sodomy law violates privacy rights and the federal constitutional guarantee of equal treatment before the law. Lambda has already played a role in successful legal challenges to discriminatory sodomy laws in Tennessee, Kentucky and Montana. The group says that the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down Colorado's Amendment 2 in "Romer v. Evans" is "a new and powerful federal tool" they can use against other discriminatory laws. (Amendment 2 was a ballot initiative passed in 1992 to prohibit and overturn local ordinances recognizing gays, lesbians and bisexuals as a minority group. It never took effect because it was immediately appealed to the courts, where it lost every round up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court's ruling made it clear that no group could legally be singled out to be denied equal participation in the po! litical process.)

Arkansas' sodomy law had previously been repealed and then reinstated. The reinstatement occurred during now-U.S. President Bill Clinton's tenure as Arkansas Governor.

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