Last edited: November 07, 2003

UT-Austin Students to Debate Texas Sodomy Law Resolution

Texas Triangle, January 9, 2003

AUSTIN—The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Affairs Agency (GLBTA) at the University of Texas at Austin announced the hearing of the organization’s Student Government resolution seeking repeal of the state’s sodomy law on Tuesday.

The resolution, AR 20, entitled "Calling for the state of Texas to repeal the ‘Homosexual Conduct’ Law (Section 21.06)" will be debated and voted on at the Student Government assembly meeting, 7 p.m. in the Student Services Building Glenn Maloney room, 100-C West Dean Keeton Street on January 14.

Students at UT-Austin are encouraged to attend the Student Government meeting to speak for the resolution during debate. Officials say student experiences and opinions will be a determining factor for many of the voting representatives of the assembly.

The resolution includes student concerns of discrimination, the use of the sodomy law (Section 21.06) to deny health care benefits at UT, and the current financial burden imposed on the UT System as a result of the law.

"Texas’ Homosexual Conduct Law is akin to old state laws that once criminalized interracial marriage," said Bobby Apperson, author of AR 20. "Those who support its existence, even when arguing that it should not be enforced, fail to realize that this law makes all gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Texas second-class citizens."

The filing of AR 20 came as the U.S. Supreme Court announced last month that it will hear the appeal of Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, a case dating back to September 1998. The high court will make a ruling on the constitutionality of Texas’s ‘Homosexual Conduct’ Law (commonly called the ‘sodomy statute’) by June, but the court’s decision could have lasting effects far beyond Texas’ borders.

AR 20 details the long and often confusing history of Section 21.06 and the use of the law to criminalize gay, lesbian and bisexual Texans in many aspects of public life. Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860, and in 1974 same-sex acts (heterosexual sodomy) were decriminalized. Sodomy is defined in the state of Texas as oral and anal sexual activity.

"Sodomy laws are discriminatory and it is sad that in this day and age we are still allowing laws to be on the books that are so blatantly a reproach to people’s rights. The idea that the law can come into the bedroom of two consenting adults is frightening," said Jillian Bissar, Student Government Social Work Representative and Social Work Council Co-president at UT-Austin.

Should the resolution be passed, it will be forwarded to Texas lawmakers in hopes that they hear students’ voices. Once Student Government passes a resolution it becomes the symbolic opinion of all 52,000 students at UT-Austin.

"We hope to send a clear message with AR 20," Apperson added. "It is not the government’s responsibility to define morality, police our bedrooms, and brand tens of thousands of Texans criminals. The use of Section 21.06 to deny equal access to housing, employment, health care, sex education, adoption and foster care is unacceptable."

Apperson also indicated "we hope that Texas lawmakers consider AR 20 when they reconvene this session, whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court does indeed overturn the Homosexual Conduct law by June."

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