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Some Anti-Sodomy Laws Still On The Books


The laws have been unenforceable since 2003, but some state governments refuse to strike them.

When the U.S Supreme Court ruled against anti-sodomy laws in 2003's Lawrence vs Texas case, gay rights groups in every state celebrated the decision. Consensual same-sex activity was no longer a crime, and any state law that indicated as much was invalidated by proxy. The historic ruling was seen as a first step in a journey toward greater political recognition, paving the way for victories in terms of adoption, marriage, and other rights most Americans take for granted.

But a Supreme Court ruling won't satisfy some politicians, who leave the unenforceable laws on the rule books, often as a statement of solidarity. As a result, the laws are cited as justification for harassment and discrimination, and sometimes incorrectly enforced by officers who are unaware they're outdated.

Yesterday The New York Times reported on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's "Office of the Repealer," created to help excise outdated state laws. When the list of suggested repeals was released, the Kansas anti-sodomy law, which prohibits anal or oral sex between same-sex couples, was nowhere to be found. Gay advocacy groups like Kansas Equality Coalition vocally supported the law's repeal, which indicates the statute wasn't forgotten on the list, but ignored. In a press release yesterday, Thomas Whitt, chairman of the KEC, called Brownback's omission "a gross act of disrespect to our nation's Constitution, and to the thousands of gay and lesbian Kansans singled out by this unjust law." With any luck, the statute will make a second round of suggested repeals, due to be released later this year.

And Kansas isn't the only state to hold on to unenforceable sodomy laws. Since the 2003 ruling, 13 other states have kept similar statutes on the book, including Montana, Utah, Louisiana and Texas. In 2010, Governor Rick Perry expressed his disagreement with the Lawrence ruling, calling it a decision made "by nine oligarchs in robes."

For a handy map indicating whether your state outlaws sodomy (or just gay sodomy) visit Mother Jones here.

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