Last edited: February 14, 2005

Sodomy Law Is Dunking-Pond Dumb

Waco Tribune Herald, June 12, 2000
900 Franklin, Waco, TX, 76703
Fax: 254-757-0302

By John Young, Opinion page editor

In colonial Haleford, Md., it was against the law to kiss for more than one second.

Didn’t matter who you kissed, we must assume. Your wife. Your mule. One-thousand-one. Then we call a constable.

Granted, to some in our fair nation those remain the good old days.

To anyone else, such matters ought never have been the village’s business.

And yet last week, a Texas appeals court considered a case in which two Houston men, arrested while in the privacy of one of their homes, were charged with showing affection in ways not authorized by the state.

The 14th Court of Appeals ruled Texas’ sodomy law unconstitutional because it discriminates against same-sex partners.

Imagine laws this side of Afghanistan — where the Taliban can order a stoning for two men caught holding hands — that specify how a loving couple can and cannot touch.

One might say that the state does this with laws against prostitution. But prostitution has public health and public nuisance concerns that this doesn’t.

What John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were doing in Lawrence’s apartment was nobody’s concern.

Despite last week’s ruling, which applies only to the 14th District, we won’t expect this very bad law to go away. An expected appeal would give a new tribunal — the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the opportunity to act spineless.

What we have with this indefensible statute is one of the few remaining situations in which a taboo is enforced as law.

Society always will have taboos — cultural or religious no-nos — but in a culture based on personal freedoms and religious diversity, taboos long ago ceased being laws of the land.

Once it not only was taboo but also illegal in some states for couples of differing races to marry. Once the birth-control pill not only was taboo but illegal in certain jurisdictions.

The weight of public opinion holds civil rights pre-eminent over authoritarian whims. So we don’t have laws making it illegal to kiss a stranger (Saudi Arabia) or for a woman to leave home not wearing underwear (Thailand.)

Public nudity laws in our country could be considered elevating a taboo to law, but "public" is the operative word. The nuisance factor makes it the public’s business.

----Nice shield from logic----

Because of a legal abomination like the sodomy law, Texas politicians can continue to justify policies that discriminate based on sexual orientation.

In the last Texas Legislature, we saw an unsuccessful effort to forbid foster adoptions by same-sex couples, a ban proposed even though the state is desperate for loving foster homes.

Proponents of such a prohibition conveniently could call it a logical extension of Texas’ law prohibiting homosexual conduct, and they would be right. But of course, that presumes that the sodomy law has logic behind it, which it doesn’t.

At its root, the sodomy law is nothing more than a means to legitimize discrimination against a class of people. It is the Jim Crow law we have yet to forsake.

It is amazing to see people who preach about limited government also preach for this and other forms of very intrusive government.

As much as certain political elements try to impose their morality on all, it doesn’t work in a nation based on civil liberties.

How then is it possible for the Texas sodomy law to have survived this long? Because on this issue, colonial logic has given justice the kiss-off.

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Email:

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