Last edited: December 08, 2004


Column: Save Our Sex Law

Ledger Enquirer, December 6, 1998
17 W. 12th St., Columbus, GA 31902
Fax 706-576-6290

Tim Chitwood, News Columnist

Georgia faces a humor crisis.

Its Supreme Court just killed the official state joke: the sodomy law, the statute that stood as a monument to government impotence in regulating private sexual conduct.

The sodomy law was always good for a chuckle. The very idea that the state could standardize sexual practices for every intimate couple of consenting adults was just a hoot and a holler. If you made love according to a set of state rules, how would you enforce them? If your lover made a dash downfield, would you grab the phone and threaten to call 911? And if the sodomy law was actually a deterrent, what's happening now that we don't have one? Sodomy must be rampant out there.

Right after the Supreme Court ruled the sodomy law violated the state constitution's guarantee of privacy, a minister remarked that most Georgians must have favored the law, because "the vast majority of us are not sodomites."

The dictionary definition of "sodomites" encompasses heterosexuals having oral sodomy. How rare is that? Until I see some polling data, I can't assume "the vast majority" is sticking to state-approved sex.

So I'm guessing that what's really got everyone's legal briefs in a twist is homosexual sodomy. That's all the U.S. Supreme Court considered in Hardwick vs. Georgia [sic Bowers v. Hardwick -RJS] in 1986, ruling the sodomy law wasn't unconstitutional because citizens had no right to commit homosexual sodomy even in the private.

But that's all the court said. An attempt to challenge the law on the basis of heterosexual sodomy was thrown out. "The only claim properly before the Court, therefore, is Hardwick's challenge to the Georgia statute as applied to consensual homosexual sodomy," the court said. "We express no opinion on the constitutionality of the Georgia statute as applied to other acts of sodomy."

Since the concept of homosexual sodomy still made most folks cringe, the "presumed belief of a majority of the Georgia electorate that homosexual sodomy is immoral and unacceptable provided a rational basis for Georgia's sodomy statute," it said.

The Georgia Supreme Court two years ago also upheld the law in a challenge based on the state constitution. In that case, a man had solicited sodomy from an undercover policeman, in public.

But this year, the state Supreme Court considered a case of private, heterosexual sodomy. And there went the sodomy law. The court could find no compelling government interest served by regulating the private sexual activity of consenting adults.

The lack of a sodomy law poses a problem to people who don't like homosexuals: The law helped justify discrimination. As Georgia's attorney general, Mike Bowers -- a real stickler for sex laws -- withdrew a job offer when he learned the applicant was a lesbian. As a lesbian, she must have been violating the sodomy law. Without a sodomy law, how can that be justified?

I'm concerned. Without the sodomy statute, state law just doesn't seem as funny. I mean, sure, we've still got the law against fornication, which is rarely enforced, and the law against adultery, which apparently is never enforced, if Bowers is any indication. But adultery and fornication just aren't the same without sodomy.

Fortunately, some Republican legislators have pledged to drive another strong sodomy statute through the 1999 Georgia General Assembly. It could become a continuing news drama, meriting its own signature graphic and catchy title ("Sodomy: Plugging the Loophole").

The prospect of a room full of politicians debating sex gives us hope that this humor crisis may yet be averted. So bring down the gavel, open the floor, and send in the clowns.

Tim Chitwood is a Ledger-Enquirer columnist. Got a thought? Write: Chitwood, P.O. Box 711, Columbus, Ga., 31902-0711. Or send E-mail to

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