Anti-Sodomy Laws: Still Unacceptable

3130001344_fd9bda8b3bRecently, the Supreme Court threw out Virginia’s attempts to reinstate a state law criminalizing anal and oral sex, putting a spotlight on similar legislation across the United States that targets homosexuality.

Although the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional 10 years ago, citing rights to privacy and equal protection, at least two states–Kansas and Oklahoma–specifically make gay sex illegal, while nine others forbid anal and/or oral sex for everyone. Granted, such laws are rarely enforced to prosecute consensual sex, but they do send a message that queer people are not welcome even in their own beds.

Supporters hide their intentions behind claims that the laws protect children, and Virginia used the same excuse. When a 47-year-old man solicited a 17-year-old girl for oral sex, the state used its “Crimes Against Nature” statute to put him in jail. Since Virginia’s age of consent is 15, the only way to prosecute was with the same law that makes certain types of consensual sex between two adults a felony.

A lower court found Virginia’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional in March, but the law still remains on the books. One of the most recent states to repeal a similar law, along with Texas, was Montana. The repeal was finally passed this April after being introduced to state legislators three times, 16 years after a state court ruled its prohibition of “deviate sexual conduct” was unconstitutional.

Montana Dem. Sen. Christine Kaufmann first viewed the proposal as a “clean-up” bill to align the state law with the federal ruling, but said it soon became a symbol because the legislature took so long to approve it. “Words are important,” said Kaufmann, who had been with her woman partner for 22 years. “I feel a whole new attitude toward Montana now this law is passed.”

Attitudes toward gay people are mixed across the U. S. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, and more than 80 percent say they aren’t bothered by being around gay people. Tolerance varies regionally and across demographics, of course,  but shouldn’t determine the existence of archaic and unconstitutional regulations that monitor adults’ consensual bedroom behavior. Furthermore, with so many gay, lesbian and bisexual people still in the closet in fear of public scorn, it’s time to show anti-sodomy laws the door.

Photo of LGBT rights buttons and jewelry from Flickr user Earthworm under license from Creative Commons 2.0.