Last edited: February 14, 2005

Court Strikes Down Arkansas Sodomy Law

The Advocate, March 24–26, 2001

A judge in Arkansas struck down the state’s sodomy law Friday, saying that it unfairly targets gays and lesbians. The law, passed in 1977, criminalizes only same-sex sexual activities. It had been challenged by seven gays and lesbians who said they feared being convicted and losing their jobs because of the law. Pulaski County circuit judge David Bogard said the Arkansas legislature erred when it banned consensual, noncommercial sexual activities between people of the same sex while permitting the same activities among heterosexuals. The state had argued that the public interest was protected by criminalizing behavior that many find immoral, 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 a way of life "that is odd or even erratic" cannot be condemned just because it is different. The plaintiffs were represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Ruth Harlow, legal director for the group, said that while none of the plaintiffs had been charged under the sodomy law, they had been threatened by its existence. "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 had not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

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