Last edited: February 14, 2005

Activists Rally Against State’s Sodomy Laws

Topeka—Self-proclaimed "sexual outlaws" rallied Saturday against a Kansas law that criminalizes same-sex sodomy.

Associated Press, February 16, 2003

"We cannot allow the government to legislate our very own pleasure, our genitals and our bodies," said Chantel Guidry, a feminist from Lawrence, in front of a crowd of about 100 cheering protesters on the steps of the Statehouse.

Holding signs that read "Proud to be a sodomite" and "State of Kansas out of our bedrooms," protesters asked that the Kansas statute against anal and oral sex between homosexual couples be repealed. Three other states ban only homosexual sodomy: Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy are illegal in nine states.

"There seems to be no legitimate state interest for this law at all. We can’t come up with any other explanation except for bigotry," said Christine Robinson, protest organizer and a sociologist at Kansas University.

Robinson said she organized the protest to show state legislators there is widespread support for overturning the law if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to do so next month.

Two men from Texas are appealing their 1998 convictions under that state’s law, claiming it unfairly targets homosexuals. If the Supreme Court finds the Texas law unconstitutional, then the Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma statutes would likewise be invalidated.

"Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule in our favor and we won’t have to deal with legislators," said Steve Brown, president of the Kansas Democratic Party Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Caucus.

Robinson, Brown and other organizers planned to meet today with several legislators, whom they would not identify, in the hopes of drafting proposals.

Brown, whose caucus has about 400 members statewide, said he doubted state lawmakers would seek the law’s repeal on their own.

"This is Kansas. I have lots of faith in the Democratic Party, but this is Kansas," said Brown of Prairie Village.

No anti-homosexual groups showed up to oppose the rally—something that surprised many protesters.

Robinson said Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, saying her schedule was full, declined an invitation to attend the rally or send a message of support. At a news conference Friday, Sebelius said she had no view on the subject.

Robinson asked protesters to write Sebelius and ask that she commute the sentence of Matthew Limon, who is serving 17 years and two months in prison for having sex as an 18-year-old with an underage boy in February 2000. Limon is appealing.

Robinson pointed out that, under the state’s "Romeo and Juliet" law, had either Limon or the other boy been a girl, the maximum prison sentence would have been one year and three months.

Nearly a dozen speakers from local and national homosexual rights groups said that although the state’s sodomy law was rarely enforced, it was the basis for other discrimination, such as not providing benefits to same-sex partners.

"Sodomy laws create a hostile environment for our family members, our loved ones and for you," said Samuel Thoron, national president of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who came in from San Francisco for the rally.

Eleanor Bell, 74, of Topeka said she came out to support the cause because of her affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Church and because some of her friends were gay.

"We generally respect all human rights," Bell said. "I feel very strongly that these laws cause damage and promote bad feelings and situations, like the Matthew Shepard case."

Shepard was the young gay man who died in October 1998 after he was beaten and tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo.

Two men are serving life in prison for the killing.

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