Last edited: December 06, 2004

100-Year-Old Sodomy Law Deemed Constitutional

June 22, 1995

From: Senator William P. Fitzpatrick

Providence, RI -- June 22, 1995 -- The Rhode Island Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of the 100-year old "Abominable and Detestable Crimes Against Nature" statute. The law has been interpreted by the courts since 1895 to include fellatio, anal intercourse, and cunnilingus. Conviction under this statute is a felony and carries a penalty of 7 to 20 years in jail. More than half of the states have repealed these statutes.

The case before the four justices, who ruled unanimously, was that of Jorge Lopes who was originally charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault with a woman.

At trial the defendant stated that the victim consented (a valid defense for sexual assault) but acknowledged that one act of oral intercourse and one act of anal intercourse had taken place.

The jury acquitted the defendant on all four counts of first-degree sexual assault but found him guilty of the lesser offenses, two acts of committing the abominable and detestable crime against nature. Consent is not a defense to these charges.

Superior court Judge Alton W. Wiley ruled that this conviction unconstitutionally infringed on Mr. Lopes right to privacy and that its application to unmarried persons violated the equal-protection provisions of the Federal and State Constitutions.

Rhode Island's Republican Attorney General Jeffrey B. Pine appealed to the Supreme Court and that court quashed the lower court's finding today.

"The Attorney General uses this unfair statute to nail defendants for which rape charges have been brought but he cannot prove. This is a complete travesty of justice," said Senator William P. Fitzpatrick (D-Cranston). "The ruling comes exactly one month after Rhode Island extended civil rights protections to homosexuals and bisexuals and with this ruling today it is as if the old guard wants to slap us back into our second-class citizen status. I am truly disappointed with today's ruling. It is a sad day for justice in Rhode Island".

Fitzpatrick introduced a bill to repeal the statute this year but it had to be scuttled when the gay rights bill advanced. "I will push hard next year for repeal of this unjust law that makes a mockery of the system of justice and law and order itself," Fitzpatrick said.

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