View Full Version : U.S. Supreme Court to consider laws prohibiting homosexual acts

Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:16 PM
Posted on Tue, Dec. 03, 2002

U.S. Supreme Court to consider laws prohibiting homosexual acts
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday that it would consider whether states can punish homosexuals for having sex, a case that will test the constitutionality of sodomy laws in Missouri, Kansas and 11 other states.

The justices will review the prosecution of two men under a 28-year-old Texas law making it a crime to engage in same-sex intercourse.

The court has struggled with how much protection the Constitution offers in the bedroom. The court ruled 5-4 in 1986 that consenting adults had no constitutional right to private homosexual sex, upholding laws that banned sodomy.

"Gay men and lesbians have been waiting for the opportunity to convince the court it should take a different view of their constitutional rights," Ruth E. Harlow, legal director of the New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Monday.

The court faces several questions in the latest case. Among them: Is it an unconstitutional invasion of privacy for couples to be prosecuted for what they do in their own homes? Is it unconstitutional for states to treat gays and lesbians differently by punishing them for having sex while allowing heterosexual couples to engage in the same acts without penalties?

Sodomy is defined as abnormal sex, in some states including anal and oral sex. Nine states ban consensual sodomy for everyone: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. In addition, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma punish only homosexual sodomy.

States argue that the laws, some dating back more than 100 years, are intended to preserve public morals. The laws are rarely enforced.

Kansas' criminal sodomy law is the subject of a case being reviewed by the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Attorney Darrell S. Smith argued to the court in September that the law was an unconstitutional violation of equal protection for homosexuals.

Smith's client, Robert T. Rowe, was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge last year and sentenced to probation.

Rowe, 55, was charged in April 2001 for sexual activity that occurred in a Johnson County park. Because the activity occurred in a public place, his case does not involve the same invasion-of-privacy issue to be addressed in the Texas case.

A decision in Rowe's case is expected any time.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for the Missouri attorney general's office, said the Supreme Court's decision to hear the case was so new that no discussions had taken place as to whether Missouri should get involved. He said staff lawyers would have to determine whether the Texas statute was similar enough to Missouri's law to warrant Missouri getting involved.

In the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Lawrence v. Texas, lawyers for John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner said the men were bothering no one in 1998 when they were arrested in Lawrence's apartment, jailed overnight and later fined under Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law, which classifies anal or oral sex between two men or two women as deviate sexual intercourse.

The men's lawyers said the convictions would prevent them from getting certain jobs and would in some states require them to register as sex offenders. They were arrested after police responded to a false report of an armed intruder in Lawrence's apartment. Police entered the unlocked apartment and found the men having sex.

Lawrence and Garner were fined $200 after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges.

"The idea that a state may enter into American bedrooms and closely inspect the most intimate and private physical interactions...is a stark affront to fundamental liberty that the court should end," said Harlow, one of the men's lawyers.

William Delmore III, an assistant district attorney in Texas, said people who did not like the law should take it up with the Texas Legislature, not the courts.

He said homosexual sodomy had been considered criminal behavior for centuries. The conduct "could not conceivably have achieved the status of a fundamental right in the brief period of 16 years" since the Supreme Court last reviewed it, Delmore wrote in the state's court papers.

In the last decade, state courts have blocked sodomy laws in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana and Tennessee. A Louisiana appeals court recently upheld that state's 197-year-old law banning all oral and anal sex.

In a brief supporting Texas, the California-based Pro Family Law Center said states should have the leeway to protect the public from the spread of diseases like AIDS.

Civil rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, urged the court to intervene, saying the laws were responsible for "stigmatizing gays and lesbians as outlaws" and contributed "to an atmosphere of hatred and violence" against gays.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court:

• Agreed to decide whether Michigan prison officials can ban visits by some child relatives and former prisoners and prevent some inmates from receiving anyone other than lawyers and clergy.

• Was asked by the Bush administration to limit lawsuits filed by American Indian tribes contending that the Interior Department failed to protect tribal resources.

• Said it would consider whether California prosecutors can get around time limits on child molestation cases, agreeing to hear an appeal from a grandfather charged with sexually abusing two family members decades earlier.

• Ended an effort to block specialty car-license plates in Louisiana with the slogan "Choose Life.'

• Rejected an appeal from a Mississippi death-row inmate whose lawyers wanted the court to decide whether it is unconstitutional for states to execute juvenile defendants. The inmate was 17 in 1989 when he killed a convenience store clerk in a robbery.

• Refused to stop a lawsuit that accused FBI officials of punishing an investigator in another agency for criticizing the Clinton administration's national security policy.

The Crow
Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:26 PM
Originally posted by CHOCO
Posted on Tue, Dec. 03, 2002

States argue that the laws, some dating back more than 100 years, are intended to preserve public morals. The laws are rarely enforced.

This is such a laughable excuse :rolleyes: :mad:

Helen Lawson
Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:28 PM
Do you think anyone on the Supreme Court "bats for the team"?

Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:33 PM
Have you seen them? They can bat for someone else's team, thank you very much! ;)

That the laws may be "rarely enforced" is little comfort to those who do get prosecuted. Furthermore, the very existance of such laws is often used against gays and lesbians in other contexts - ie, parents being denied custody of their children because they "commit felonies" even if they haven't be prosecuted.

No government has any business deciding what consenting adults can and can't do in private.

Helen Lawson
Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:38 PM
That one man from the Northeast is ok looking.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:39 PM
(Hey, whatever rolls your socks down.)

further reading, if you're interested-


In the well-publicized 1995 Virginia case, Bottoms v. Bottoms, Sharon Bottoms lost custody of her son Tyler to her own mother, Pamela Kay Bottoms. Even though Tyler’s father had no objections to having Sharon raise their son, Pamela Bottoms successfully invoked the sodomy laws of Virginia to prevent Sharon Bottoms from raising her own son. Pamela Bottoms cited the Virginia sodomy law to identify Sharon Bottoms as a habitual felon under the Virginia sodomy law, using the classification of Sharon Bottoms as a criminal to further object to the imagined harm that might be done to the boy as a result of his being raised by a lesbian. The child was placed in Pamela Bottoms’ custody.

The Crow
Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:44 PM
Thanks, griffin, I didn't know about that. That's an outrage...

Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:56 PM
I'm not sure whether to laugh at the sheer ludicrousness of it all or not. That's unbelievable. Really... it'd be self-parody if it wasn't serious. No, it's self-parody anyway.

The Bottoms case:

1 - call me naive, but I'm not sure if I can really see how lesbians can commit sodomy.

2 - Bottoms v Bottoms. Well, I'm laughing.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 04:59 PM
I'd laugh too if it hadn't been for the result.

The simple answer to 1 is that oral sex is considered sodomy under these statutes - in fact, in some cases any sexual contact between memebers of the same sex has been labled "sodomy."

Beyond that I will only say that we lesbians can be a resourceful bunch.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 05:09 PM
Wow. Lesson 1 in how to rewrite the English language. Someone needs to show them a dictionary. And I'm well aware that you lesbians can be resourceful ;) and, after some thought, I've actually worked out how you could be sodomites. Lovely!

The result is a disgrace. And it was only seven years ago! Christ.

Master Lu
Dec 3rd, 2002, 06:16 PM
What I cannot comprehend is how those laws could have stood till present day! I just cannot comprehend.

Croatia, my home country, is something like 98% catholic, so you can imagine the public oppinion on homosexualism (a lot better with my generation, though), and yet there's absolutely no mention of any such stupidity in our laws and constitution. There is no pro-gay laws yet (about to change, perhaps), but something like this is beyond stupid.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 06:28 PM
Fact is, the current Supreme Court consist of a majority of conservatives, and it won't surprise me that the court will uphold the state laws concerning homosexual acts. It's unfortunate that the Supreme Court doesn't change with the times and get rid of the old and archaic laws that exist from another place and time.

We'll just have to wait for a liberal president to be elected.

Helen Lawson
Dec 3rd, 2002, 06:31 PM
I like the ones that ban it for everyone. If you are gay, no sex. If you are straight, only one kind. Period. End of story. Are these laws something the U.S. got from old British law or customs? Many laws are.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 07:21 PM
At one point, I think just about every state in the union had anti-sodomy laws. As others have pointed out, sodomy referred to any sexual act that didn't lead directly to procreation...in other words, any sex act other than vaginal intercourse was illegal. Of course, heterosexuals were rarely, if ever, prosecuted based on these laws.

Clearly these laws are used to target homosexuals, but one might wonder how these laws are even enforced. Does anyone find it suspicious that the police responded to a "false" burglary alarm in the present case? This tells me that John and Tyron have a neighbor that doesn't like "homos" and no doubt gave a tip to police or called in the false alarm. This is typically how these laws have been enforced in the past. Either that, or when a vengeful wife finds hubby with the gardener bent over the kitchen table, and then she tips off the police.

Many states have done away with the sodomy laws entirely, but as the article notes, some still hold on for dear life.

Helen Lawson
Dec 3rd, 2002, 07:30 PM
I think straight people get away with it because when a cop barges into their bedroom, the guy can just claim his face was between the woman's legs because she thought she had a skin problem and he was double checking because she cannot see that well down there. Gay men and lesbians when they are caught in bed naked, it is harder to come up with something plausible.

Dec 3rd, 2002, 07:37 PM
So true Helen. When my girlfriend barged in on me giving it to my buddy good, I insisted "I thought he was choking and I was just performing the Heimlich Maneuver". Surprisingly, she didn't seem to buy it...

Helen Lawson
Dec 3rd, 2002, 07:43 PM
This woman I once did a show with was the shower with a guy and a cop barged in. She told the cop she was into water conservation and they did not want to waste any water, so she was on her knees washing her face with the water running down his chest, so as to make double use of the water. So, by taking one shower instead of two, and making double use of the water, they were helping society. The cop left.

Master Lu
Dec 3rd, 2002, 11:15 PM
Originally posted by G-Ha
So true Helen. When my girlfriend barged in on me giving it to my buddy good, I insisted "I thought he was choking and I was just performing the Heimlich Maneuver". Surprisingly, she didn't seem to buy it...


Dec 4th, 2002, 01:55 AM
I wonder if these same laws are in effect in other countries.

Dec 4th, 2002, 02:00 AM
The majority of countries as advanced as the United States don't have absolutely stupid and pointless laws like this.

Let's hope that reason and egalitarian thinking prevails in the *cough* Supreme *cough* Court.

Mercury Rising
Dec 4th, 2002, 08:09 AM
Wow, another unbelievable fact wiser. And they don't even wonna change the laws?? This is pure discrimination, and THAT should be forbidden in a democratic country, but it must be clear, the US isn't democratic at all.

Dec 4th, 2002, 02:21 PM
The Supreme Court might rule on this case today.

Dec 5th, 2002, 12:30 AM
I hope that means they will strike down the laws!
Really, it's time for some of these laws to go the way of the horse-and-buggy...many people in the U.S. have changed their attitudes about gay people over the past 10-20 years, and it's time the Supreme Court woke up to that fact.
Also, I think in this time of being vigilant against terrorism, our law enforcement should be worrying about that. Two men having sex is not as big a deal as a hijacked plane going into a building!