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Sodomy and the Supreme Court

The excitement began on September 17 of 1998 when a neighbor, for reasons of his own, called the Harris County Texas Sheriff's department to falsely report that the man in the apartment next door was "going crazy" and had a gun. Sheriff's deputies, responding in all good faith to the call, entered said appartment and found another situation entirely -- the resident and a same sex friend going at in the throes of homosexual affection. And while this is not quite a hanging offense in Texas, it is a class C misdemeanor and will earn you a little jail time and a $500 fine. Not to mention public ridicule and a lifetime of potential ass kickings and job dismissals.

Since the mid 1970s considerable progress has been made in striking such laws from the books, but the progress has not gone nearly as far as one might think. In 1987, the U. S. Supreme Court decreed (in Bowers v. Hardwick), that the right to privacy does not include those engaging in "homosexual sodomy." Meaning that what you do in your own home behind closed doors can never be purely your own business, if it involves a same sex partner. Homosexual conduct, it was inferred, could be outlawed, monitored, and punished by the government. Meanwhile, in many various parts of the U.S. heterosexuals too could be punished for engaging in various sex acts (typically oral or anal sex) -- under sodomy laws.

In 1994 the United Nations proclaimed that sodomy laws were a violation provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Considering that the United States ratified the ICCPR, and is bound by its provisions, you might assume that this put an end to state and local sodomy laws. Wrong. As is often observed, no one pays much attention to the United Nations -- unless it could yield them a substantial Foreign Aid package.

So meanwhile, archaic and horrific sodomy laws stayed on the books. Few people wanted to call attention to themselves for wanting to trash civilization as we know it by giving the green light to ass fucking, cunt slurping and so on. For many practitioners of the arts, this was not a problem as long as they stayed away from under age partners, public displays, video cameras, and other ways of calling attention to themselves.

But for homosexuals such laws forced them to choose between living a life of nervous secrecy ("in the closet") and living their lives truthfully and in the open where they could be arrested for trangressing against sodomy laws. Some states went so far as to say that ass-fucking was fine (or at least nobody's business) between heterosexuals, but criminal between same sex partners (Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Maryland particularly singled out gays).

Fines and jail time were not the only threats looming however. Individuals who admitted to or were accused of sodomy found themselves on extremely shaky ground when it came to adoption, foster parenting, child custody hearings, or running for public office.

Now, if you're a fag hater, you probably don't give a damn. "Serves 'em right." But even if you are a fag hater, it should occur to you that the United States government has no business telling people who they can and can't fuck and in what orifice(s) -- as long as said persons are in the privacy of their own home and providing that all parties are consenting adults. That is, it's one thing to hold nasty little opinions about other people's sexual orientations, it's another entirely to embue uptight dweebs in conservative suits with the power to control the most intimate aspects of our existence. It sets a very bad precedence. (i.e. The next person they regulate could be you.)

Furthermore, because the arguments against homosexuality and other activities covered by sodomy laws were often based on interpretations of scriptures in the Bible prohibiting sodomy -- that is, on moral standards taken from one interpretation of a particular religion's holy book. Such laws were an implicit violation of the separation of Church and State.

And yet in much of the United States, state and local governments and religious conservatives continued to have exactly that kind of power -- read the laws regarding sodomy in the various 50 states.

But it was all fated to change once Tyrone Garner and John Geddes Lawrence were dragged off to jail for violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.01 of the Texas Penal Code ("A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.").

No doubt the arresting officers assumed that the two "fags" in question would simply wither away in shame under the glare of the public spotlight, pay their respective fines, and crawl back under the rock they assuredly came from. But instead Tyrone Garner and John Geddes Lawrence made a federal case out of it, literally -- taking their fight to the United States Supreme Court.

On June 26, 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States blew the minds of sexually uptight bigots across the Southland by declaring that what two gay men did to each other in the privacy of their Texas apartments was nobody's business -- no matter how "unnatural" it might seem in the eyes of God and the neighbors. (Read the Supreme Court Ruling)

But because such rulings set legal precedents, the effects of this decision were even farther reaching. Meaning that sodomy laws in other states are now invalid as well (except for those dealing with public acts of sodomy). And as if that were not enough, the ruling also affects past sodomy convictions, meaning that some individuals serving time or under restrictions due to conviction under sodomy laws may be able to appeal their conviction.


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