Last edited: November 19, 2003


Sodomy Ban Should Have Ended Sooner

Kansas City Star, July 14, 2003
1729 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64108
Fax: 816-234-4926

By Robert N. Minor, Special to The Star

The Supreme Court’s decision June 26 striking down Texas’ law banning same-sex sodomy was overdue.

Though the justices declared the law unconstitutional on the grounds of the right to protect all consenting adults from law enforcement intrusion in their bedrooms, the objections to the court taking this action seem archaic and uninformed.

The past half-century of study has shown that arguments used to maintain discrimination against gay people are little more than leftovers from days of ignorance and prejudice. Yet they are often couched in religious, traditional or scientific terms.

The court couldn’t accept arguments from psychology. All mainstream professional psychological organizations removed homosexuality from their list of disorders more than a quarter of a century ago. Those who continue to promote “conversion” or “reparative therapy” face accusations of unprofessional conduct, lack of evidence of their effectiveness and refusal to understand the psychology of sexual orientation. The American Psychological Association admitted: “Homosexuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information.”

Biblical arguments against homosexuality have lost some appeal. Biblical scholars have shown that anti-gay interpretations of Biblical passages are based more on current prejudices than on historical readings of the texts. Those who continue to use the Bible refuse to admit that their understanding of the Bible is only one possibility.

Arguments that “Judeo-Christian” religious history is thoroughly against homosexuality conveniently ignore the diversity of Jewish and Christian teachings and practice since the first century. One can find anything one wants in the history of Christianity: crusades, inquisitions, the burning of witches, arguments for slavery or rejection of women’s leadership. The United States’ largest Protestant denomination was founded in 1845 on a “states’ rights” platform to maintain slavery.

“Tradition” itself no longer holds the value it did as people note that what we call traditional is only discriminately picking from human history what one wants and ignoring what one doesn’t. If anything is traditional, it’s prejudice, bigotry and cockroaches. Justice Anthony Kennedy was informed by solid scholarship: “There is no longlasting history in this country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter.”

  • Robert N. Minor is professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas. He lives in Lawrence.

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