Last edited: February 14, 2005

Measure To Repeal State Sodomy Law Approved By Senate Judiciary Panel

Newport Daily News, Friday, May 22, 1998
P.O.Box 420
Newport, RI 02840

By Joe Baker, Daily News Staff

PROVIDENCE -- The State Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to repeal the state's 100-year-old law criminalizing sodomy, calling it unconstitutional.

The 9-to-2 vote put supporters a step closer to their goal. The full Senate will debate the bill next week, probably Thursday. Advocates believe they have the votes to push the legislation through the Senate and to Gov. Lincoln Almond. The House of Representatives already has voted to repeal the law.

According to a source close to the governor, Almond will let the bill become law without his signature.

Opponents of the bill put on a last-ditch effort to kill the bill, trying to convince committee members that the bill was immoral. Sodomy is defined as oral and anal sex.

David K. Gadoury, pastor of the Cranston Christian Fellowship, said the bill was "a sinister movement to approve same-sex marriages."

Also, Philip H. Curtis, pastor of the 300-member Exeter Chapel, said, "You are opening a Pandora's Box and the intention is to move one step after another to allow homosexual marriages in the state."

Another opponent is Joanne McOsker, president of Catholics for Life. "I can't believe we're talking about this horrific bill," she said. "How far have we come down the slippery road of evil?"

Opponents said the law was a deterrent to those who would have sex in public and would force themselves on children. Repealing it would be sending the wrong message to children, they said.

But supporters told a different story--that the law was unevenly enforced and that it unfairly penalizes handicapped people who may have no other way to continue a physical relationship with their loved ones. There are already laws against any kind of sex in public and child molestation, they said.

"There is no reason why this should be enforced for unmarried adults and not for married adults if this conduct is truly injurious to the public," said J. Richard Ratcliffe, an attorney representing the American Bar Association.

Sen. John Roney, D-Providence, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the law has historically been selectively enforced.

"This law is essentially like a speed trap," Roney said. "It waits to trap the unwary or the unlucky. It is the antithesis of what we really are. We are not a government of law; we are a government of men because it is a person who decides who will be charged."

Three different Superior Court judges have, in recent years, pressed the General Assembly to act on what they call an unconstitutional law, Roney said. Several committee members cited that when they voted for the bill.

"The issue tonight is the repeal of an antiquated, clearly unconstitutional statute," said committee chairwoman Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport.

"We can talk about the different problems that may arise, but the bottom line is that the law violates the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and the Rhode Island Constitution," said Sen. Patrick T. McDonald, D-South Kingstown.

[Home] [News] [Rhode Island]