Last edited: January 03, 2005


GOP Legislators Should Accept Sodomy Ruling

Forget Try for New Law

Athens Banner-Herald, November 26, 1998
Box 912, Athens, GA 30603
Fax 706-208-2246
Online Mailer:

The same law had been challenged before in federal court and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1986 that consenting adults have no constitutional right to private homosexual conduct.

While that case was instigated by a gay bartender from Atlanta, Monday's Georgia Supreme Court decision came on a case involving a heterosexual man, Anthony Powell.

Powell's attorney convinced a jury to acquit his client of rape charges, arguing that the sex was consensual, but failed to get the sodomy charge dismissed.

Speaking for the majority on the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Robert Benham noted the state already has laws preventing sexual assaults and protecting the public from sexual acts.

With those laws on the books, he said, the only explanation for the sodomy law is "to regulate the private conduct of consenting adults, something which Georgia's right of privacy puts beyond the bounds of government regulation."

The court is absolutely right and should be applauded for meeting its judicial obligation by arriving at a wise and fair decision.

There is no public good served by an archaic law that, while admittedly rarely enforced, has been selectively used more often to persecute homosexuals than to punish heterosexuals who violate it in far greater numbers.

The Powell challenge, for example, was the first in at least 10 years to be based on a heterosexual case, according to an attorney involved in the appeal.

Since Monday's ruling voids the entire sodomy law, and the ruling cannot be appealed, the only recourse for those bent on attempting to outlaw certain sexual behavior is to introduce new legislation.

Any such initiative is bound to be a political football pitting conservatives against liberals, detracting attention from other more important legislation and in the end amounting to a colossal waste of time since the court would eventually declare it unconstitutional as well.

The only chance for any success would be a constitutional amendment, but devising one that bans private sexual activity among consenting adults without violating privacy rights is a daunting challenge.

Only 18 states still have sodomy laws on the books. In many cases, legislatures have repealed the laws or, as happened Monday in Georgia, they have been declared unconstitutional by the courts.

It is ironic that members of the Republican Party, the political organization that preaches individual rights and responsibilities and advocates fewer laws and less government intrusion into the private lives of citizens, seems bent on a futile attempt to enact another sodomy law in Georgia.

The party's leaders would be wise to reconsider their initial stance and stay out of the bedrooms of Georgians who are legally old enough to decide for themselves what goes on there.

[Home] [Editorials] [Georgia]