Last edited: February 14, 2005

Sodomy Ban Considered

The Cincinnati Enquirer, January 16, 1996

by Patrick Crowley

Covington--Northern Kentucky's two Republican state senators will support a constitutional amendment outlawing sodomy--if the amendment is introduced and voted on during the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Sen. Tim Philpot, R-Lexington, told The Enquirer on Monday he is studying various drafts of an amendment and will decide within weeks whether he will introduce it.

"I'm looking at a lot of different versions that are floating around," Sen. Philpot said, "but we have to be confident that if we file a bill it can withstand a constitutional challenge and pass the courts."

Mr. Philpot would not discuss the specifics, such as whether the proposed bills would outlaw sodomy between consenting opposite-sex adults or only between people of the same sex.

Sodomy is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary as "any sexual intercourse held to be abnormal," including "anal intercourse between two males."

Sens. Dick Roeding, R-Fort Mitchell, and Gex "Jay" Williams, R-Verona, said Monday they would support the amendment.

"I'm against sodomy," Sen. Roeding said. "It's a terrible thing. If the voters can get a chance at the amendment, it will pass."

Mr. Williams, who has tried to pass anti-sodomy laws in the past, called the Kentucky Supreme Court's 1992 decision overturning a law that criminalized sodomy by people of the same sex "a bad decision."

Mr. Williams said he opposes sodomy on moral grounds and does not think gays should be protected under anti-disrimination or other laws.

Court Rulings

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that oral sex falls under the definition of sodomy.

However, the Commonwealth's high court ruled in 1992 that the state's sodomy law was an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The court said that the Kentucky Constitution guarantees a right to privacy that covers sexual acts between consenting adults and that sodomy should not be against the law.

Therefore, an amendment would be needed to change the state constitution and make sodomy a criminal offense.

The amendment would need three-fifths of the vote from the full House and Senate to make it onto November's ballot. Then voters would decide whether sodomy should be illegal in Kentucky.

Mr. Philpot said he fears any amendment will be killed in committee by the General Assembly's Democratic leadership. In 1994, similar amendments were proposed in both the House and the Senate.

The amendment passed a House committee but died after House Democrats voted behind closed doors not to put the amendment on the ballot.

"I wish the leadership in the House and Senate would allow bills to be discussed in committee," Mr. Philpot said, "where the legislators, the press, the public and anybody else could sit and listen and members of the public could comment.

"But the way it happens so often now is that bills get killed by committee chairs of the majority party. That's very unhealthy and very unfortunate."

As many as 24 states have laws prohibiting sodomy. [NOTE: This is erroneous; only 22 states still have them]

In 1986, the US Supreme Court decided by a 5-to-4 vote that it was constitutional for Georgia to enforce a state sodomy law against gays while not implementing it against heterosexuals.

The constitutional right of privacy does not extend to private consensual sodomy among gays, the majority of the justices said.

The ruling has been challenged and is before a federal circuit court in Atlanta.

Democrat's Objection

Senate Majority Leader David Karem, D-Louisville, said he does not think an amendment outlawing sodomy would have a lot of support in the legislature or the state.

"The only way to make an amendment work, within the bounds of the federal constitution, is to make it apply to everyone," Mr. Karem said Monday. "That means it would have to apply to husbands and wives.

"My feeling is that there is a growing number of people who believe government does not need to be in the family's bedroom."

Sen. Joe Meyer, D-Covington, said he wishes Senate Republicans would concentrate on amendments "that do things like reduce taxes, which is what we're trying to do in the Senate now."

Democrats and Republicans are involved in a political fitht over when and how the Senate should vote on a proposed amendment eliminating the state taxes on intangible property, such as stocks and other investments, and unmined minerals.

"I would much rather have a tax issue on the ballot than (the sodomy) issue," Mr. Meyer said.

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