Last edited: February 14, 2005


Editorial: Privacy Leave Adults Alone

Charleston (WV) Gazette, December 3, 1998
1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301
Fax: (304) 348-1233

Georgia law made it a prison offense for anyone, even married couples, to engage in oral sex. Police who somehow entered a bedroom and found an uncovered couple in the wrong position were required to jail the pair.

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court -- dominated by conservative Republican appointees -- upheld Georgia's biblical-sounding "sodomy" law, at least as it applied to homosexuals. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that to rule otherwise "would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching."

But now, thank heaven, Georgia's own state Supreme Court has "cast aside millennia of moral teaching" and voided the law. In a landmark 6-1 ruling, the Georgia court decreed that consenting adults have a right to privacy in the bedroom. The former law is struck down.

Hurrah. We hope this policy becomes standard throughout America. Thirteen other states still criminalize oral sex between men and women, and five more make it a crime just among gays. In every case, it's a police intrusion into the most intimate, personal, private part of life.

This intrusion is part of an age-old attempt by severe moralists to control how others make love. Throughout history, disapprovers have punished people for unapproved sex.

The Old Testament decreed that non-virgin brides must be stoned to death on their fathers' doorsteps. Puritans in both England and America mandated death for unmarried lovers. A century ago, Anthony Comstock's Committee for the Suppression of Vice jailed 2,500 Americans for many sex offenses, including birth control advocacy. In some states, contraception was a crime, even for married couples, until a generation ago. In some Muslim lands today, women still are stoned to death for unwed sex.

We're glad that all these aspects of "millennia of moral teaching" are being outgrown by liberated modern America.

However, one stricture remains valid, concerning children. Parents naturally are upset if raw sex is displayed to tots too young to understand. That's why Congress has tried twice to ban sex on the Internet -- and twice failed. The first law was struck down, and the second has been put into abeyance.

A solution has been prescribed by The Providence Journal. It suggests creation of a new Web site suffix, ".sex" -- similar to ".com" for commercial sites, ".org" for organization sites, ".edu" for educational ones, etc. All explicit sex -- such as Kenneth Starr's report on President Clinton -- would be relegated to a ".sex" site. Parents could install filters to prevent children from reaching those sites.

But for consenting adults, private sexual behavior should be of no concern to police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens and legislators. The government should stay out of the bedroom. Just leave people alone.

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