Last edited: December 06, 2004

High Court Strikes Down Sodomy Law

Wichita Eagle, June 27, 2003 (excerpted local content)
South Kansas Avenue, Wichita, KS 66603
Fax: 316-268-6627

By Abe Levy and Steve Painter, The Wichita Eagle

A landmark decision by the nation’s top court Thursday that struck down a ban on gay sex elicited strong reactions, pro and con, from people in Kansas and elsewhere. . . .

Kansas is one of 13 states with laws prohibiting sodomy. The court, in effect, nullified all of them.

While some people called the ruling an attack on biblical values and the traditional family, others saw it as a human rights victory that will cut down on discrimination against the gay and lesbian community.

“The sodomy law has been justification for discrimination against gays and lesbians for many years,” said Vinnie Levin, owner of the Liberty Press, a gay and lesbian newspaper in Kansas.

The ruling brings closer the possibility for insurance benefits for homosexual partners, adoption rights and ultimately state-recognized marriages, she said.

The Rev. Terry Fox of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita said the ruling undermines the biblical model of family and should spur Christians to speak out against homosexuality.

“The far majority of people are still anti-sodomy. That’s a fact,” said Fox, a national leader with the Southern Baptist Convention. “It just absolutely defaces what we have understood to be wholesome marriages.”

Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston said she would honor the ruling as required by her job, but it likely will have little effect on the cases her office prosecutes.

That’s because the Kansas sodomy law was rarely used, she said. She said she couldn’t recall a single sodomy case being prosecuted since she joined the district attorney’s office in 1977.

The ruling doesn’t allow for gay marriages, nor does it affect the policing of prostitution, pedophilia or other sexual crimes, she said.

“Law enforcement has not been the sex police, peeking into windows,” she said. “It seems those people who have same-sex relationships have remained private.” . . .

“There’s no need for the Legislature to visit the subject now,” said House Speaker Doug Mays, a Topeka Republican.

Added House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg: “We have a lot of other unconstitutional laws on our books.”

Some of those get removed in periodic reviews of outdated statutes, said Senate President Dave Kerr, a Hutchinson Republican.

But Wichita Rep. Brenda Landwehr said the sodomy law should stay on the books.

“The Supreme Court has overstepped its bounds and violated its constitutional duty. The Supreme Court’s job is not to make cultural decisions for states,” said Landwehr, a Republican.

Scott Curry, a gay and lesbian advocate and lawyer in Wichita, called the ruling an affirmation of basic human rights.

“I think this decision is the same for gays and lesbians that maybe the civil acts movement was for race,” he said. “For the first time in many years, gays and lesbians are not criminals simply for being gays and lesbians.” . . .

The decision could help foster more unity in the nation, said Graylan Hawkins-Pyles, pastor of the First Metropolitan Community Church, a congregation in Wichita with a majority of gay and lesbian members.

“Just think of what you can learn if you get the opportunity to just to get to know me and don’t look at my skin color or sexuality,” he said. “We learn from each other, and that’s what heals a nation.”

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