Last edited: February 14, 2005

Arkansas Official Argues for Sodomy Law

The Advocate, November 14, 2001

A judge’s ruling that Arkansas’s sodomy law, which bans sex between partners of the same sex, is unconstitutional is not supported by any case law, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday. Attorney General Mark Pryor’s office filed a brief with the state supreme court supporting its appeal of a March 23 ruling by Pulaski County circuit judge David Bogard. The brief filed by Assistant Attorney General Jill Jones Moore argues that neither case law nor history supports Bogard’s finding that the 1977 law violates privacy rights granted by the state constitution. In addition, the brief said, the law has apparently never been enforced, so the plaintiffs—seven gay Arkansans—can’t claim there’s a threat worthy of a court’s attention. "To argue that [plaintiffs] may in the future become a target of the act, given its history of nonenforcement, is speculative at best," the brief said. On October 29, the New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, representing the plaintiffs, filed a brief with the state’s high court arguing that the 1977 law "singles out gay men and lesbians for criminal condemnation for engaging in the very same conduct freely permitted heterosexuals." The seven plaintiffs told Bogard they feared being charged or convicted or losing their jobs or professional licenses. The law they challenged carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. Susan Sommer, supervising attorney for Lambda Legal, said Tuesday that the state’s argument that no one has ever been prosecuted under the law is no assurance that no one will be in the future. Prosecutors have had ample opportunity to say they would not enforce the law, she said, but none has done so. "They’re not saying, ‘We’re not going to do it,"‘ Sommer said. "They’re saying, ‘We have discretion to do it or not,’ and that’s really a cold comfort."

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