Last edited: February 14, 2005

Arkansas Judge Rules Anti-Sodomy Law Unconstitutional

Associated Press, March 23, 2001

By Kelly P. Kissel

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge threw out Arkansas’ anti-sodomy law Friday, saying it unfairly singles out homosexuals for prosecution.

No one has been prosecuted under the 1977 law. But seven homosexuals brought a lawsuit challenging the law, saying they feared being charged and convicted and losing their jobs or professional licenses.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge David Bogard said the Arkansas Legislature erred when it barred consensual, noncommercial sexual activities between people of the same sex while permitting the same activities among heterosexuals.

The Arkansas law carried a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

The state argued that the government had an interest in criminalizing behavior that most of its citizens would find morally inappropriate, but Bogard disagreed.

"The people of Arkansas have the right to legislate on issues involving morals, but homosexuality is not only a question of morals," Bogard said.

Bogard said a way of life "that is odd or even erratic" cannot be condemned just because it is different.

Ruth Harlow, legal director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, which represented the group, said that even though no one was prosecuted, its members did not like being branded as criminals.

"The law hangs over their heads and treats them like second-class citizens," she said. "It says it’s illegal when you do it but not when your neighbor does, as long as they are heterosexual."

The Arkansas attorney general’s office said it has not decided whether to appeal.

Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas are the only other states that outlaw sodomy [only] between same-sex partners.

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