More than eight years after a groundbreaking Supreme Court ruling that made criminalizing the LGBT community through sodomy laws unconstitutional, 18 U.S. states have yet to rewrite their laws to reflect that decision.
In fact, many of those states continue to enforce laws that prohibit private consensual sex between same-sex adults.
In Michigan, according to a recent article for EqualityMatters.org, gay men continue to be arrested, charged and even convicted under the state’s “crime against nature” laws. Those convicted are often forced to register as sex offenders, and some even face up to 15 years in prison. One would think that a state so strapped for cash could find better ways to use its money than locking up homosexuals. —BF
Up until 1962, gay sex between two consenting adults was a felony in every state in the United States. So-called “crime against nature” or “sodomy” laws—the term “sodomy” is a reference to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah—typically punished violators with lengthy prison sentences, fines, and even hard labor. Although these laws typically targeted gays and lesbians, some statutes were written broadly enough to cover any form of non-vaginal intercourse, including oral and anal sex between heterosexuals.
While many states moved to repeal their sodomy laws in the late 1900s, others—like Georgia —moved in the opposite direction. In the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision, the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s sodomy law, arguing that there was no “fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy.”
After Bowers, several more states began moving towards decriminalizing private acts of gay sex between consenting adults. It wasn’t until 2003, however, that the Supreme Court finally reconsidered its position on sodomy laws.
In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Texas’ sodomy statute was unconstitutional, marking a major legal victory on the path towards LGBT equality. With the remainder of state sodomy laws technically invalidated by Lawrence, the LGBT community began to shift its focus.
Flickr / Fibonacci Blue (CC-BY)
Gay rights activists protest outside the state Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesota is one of 18 states with sodomy laws still on the books.