Last edited: February 14, 2005

Lawsuit Challenges Arkansas Sodomy Law

The Advocate, June 28, 2002

The Arkansas supreme court heard opening arguments Thursday in a lawsuit brought by seven lesbian and gay state residents challenging the state’s same-sex-only sodomy law. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is urging the court, on behalf of the plaintiffs, to strike down the state’s ban on intimate relations between consenting adults of the same sex. Working with local counsel, Lambda Legal is arguing that the law violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection.

The Arkansas law does not apply to heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples are singled out for a criminal ban on consensual sex, with punishment being up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Only three other states—Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas—have similar antigay sodomy laws. Ten states criminalize private oral and anal sex for both gay and straight consenting adults.

"The men and women standing up in the Arkansas supreme court today are upstanding citizens of the state—your neighbors, coworkers, brothers, and sisters—but they are deemed criminals under this sodomy law," said Susan Sommer, supervising attorney for Lambda Legal. "They live with the threat of arrest every day. The stigma that hangs over them with this unfair law on the books fuels an atmosphere that condones discrimination, gay bashing, and hate."

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