Alvarez, Gary page 1
Eng. 101; sec. 51
Theme II rough draft 1
February 17, 2000
SODOMY LAWS: SHOULD THEY BE ELIMINATED?
During the past decade, gays and lesbians have become more assertive in expressing their rights within American society. Although gay people are gaining legal rights and protection, they continue to be victims of discriminatory laws and social intolerance. Issues such as whether gays belong in the military, in the clergy, or in the teaching profession, have stirred the passions of many people. However, the concern with condemning the sexual practices of gays and lesbians is the issue that remains at the center of attention. These sexual practices, anal and oral sex have been prohibited by the government through sodomy laws. These laws state that any sexual act between two consenting adults of the same gender is criminal behavior, and therefore it is a criminal offense. In 1986, sodomy laws were found as constitutional in the landmark case of Bowers vs. Hardwick. By a vote of five to four, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned an earlier decision of sodomy laws; the court concluded that sodomy laws did not violate the fundamental rights of homosexuals. In addition, the court justified these discriminatory laws because American social mores are deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian tradition, which apparently condemns homosexuality and its practices (ACLU Paper: Gay and Lesbian rights). Through these laws and beliefs, confidence is given to people in order to justify their discrimination towards gays and lesbians. However, what the government fails to see is that sodomy laws infringe on a person’s right to personal liberty, especially that of a gay person’s life. Not only are these people being denied the humanizing experience of self-expression, they are also being culturally oppressed. These kinds of laws should be eliminated because they violate a person’s right to love anyone intimately, a person’s right to privacy and autonomy, and a person’s right from government intrusion at any given time.
First, through sodomy laws the government is depriving many individuals of their most profound feelings of affection by trying to criminally punish certain acts of sexual expression. Moreover, according to a consensus and the NGLFT survey of sodomy, since 1990 an estimated 17 and a half million people have been arrested because of sodomy laws; all of these arrests consisted of gay and lesbian people (Queer Resources Directory). As seen through this statistic, these laws are used to harass gays and lesbians, and are an attempt to destroy homosexual practices. Currently, a little less than half of the states have sodomy laws; the penalties for such crimes vary from state to state (Queer Resources Directory). For instance, the state of Maryland makes sodomy a felony punishable up to ten years in prison; this law is only applicable to gays and lesbians (Queer Resources Directory). Consequently, a gay couple would be arrested for engaging in oral sex; however, a heterosexual couple would not be arrested for engaging in the same kind of sexual activity. It is evident that these punitive laws create a hostile and homophobic environment that serves as a justification for the discrimination of gays and lesbians. Therefore, the first step towards the progression of prejudice of gays and lesbians is to eliminate the foundation of the problem: sodomy laws.
The second reason why sodomy laws should be eliminated is because these laws violate a person’s right to privacy; they transgress on a person’s right to have intimate relations that are of primary importance in a person’s life. In addition, sodomy laws forbid an individual’s natural expression of love to another person in meaningful ways. According to the article The Freedom of Intimate Association by Professor Kenneth Karst, in sexual relationships individuals define themselves in a significant way through their sexual intimacy (Karst 637). Defining oneself freely as long as it does not create violence is a personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, an individual, including gays and lesbians, should have the right to choose what nature and form these relationships are held.
Finally, the right to privacy suggests that a major component of personal freedom is the right of people to live their lives without the fear of unwarranted governmental intrusion. However, this was not the case for Michael Hardwick. Mr. Hardwick was arrested in his own bedroom with his partner for sexual activities that by no stretch of imagination could be deemed anything other than private. Moreover, the Supreme Court failed to understand that the right of an individual to conduct intimate relationships in the privacy of his/her home is the heart of the constitution’s protection of privacy. The right to privacy is guaranteed by the fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendments, and further secured by a series of Supreme Court rulings. In 1965, the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a state law that prohibited even married couples from obtaining contraceptives, citing zones of privacy into which the government cannot intrude; in 1967, Loving v. Virginia decriminalized interracial marriage; in 1972, Eisenstadt v. Baird recognized unmarried persons ‘ right to use contraceptives; and in 1973, Roe v. Wade recognized women’s right to terminate pregnancy (ACLU Paper: Gay and Lesbian rights). These landmark cases constitute the right to have a private life within a private area.
The idea that gay people might be sent to prison up to ten years for having sex in private is preposterous. The right to privacy means that people make choices that other people have to respect. People’s private affairs are of no business to the government; thus, the government does not have the right to interfere with the choice that lesbians and gay men make to express their sexual orientation. This understanding of privacy is grounded in the philosophy of natural rights of the constitution. Sodomy laws institute discrimination against gays and lesbians as a moral belief. Moreover, these laws give those opposed to gay rights legislation a reason for denying gays and lesbians equal treatment. These laws also communicate the message that two people of the same gender cannot be allowed to create emotional bonds or express their feelings of love through physical intimacy. Furthermore, sodomy laws are the basis to discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, gay marriage, and child adoption. This nation must greatly the harmony between different cultures, subcultures, races, and ethnicity, so that people can exist peacefully. Therefore, sodomy laws should be eliminated in order to achieve the moral acceptance of gays and lesbians.
1990 Consensus and NGLFT Survey of Sodomy. QueerResources Directory. Online. Http://admin.qrd/org/qrd/usa/national/sodomy. Feb. 8, 2000.
American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper Number 19: Gay and Lesbian Rights. Online. Http://www.bway.net/~halsall/lbgh/lgbh-aclu-txt. Feb. 15, 2000
Karst, Kenneth L. The Freedom of Intimate Associations. Yale Law Journal March 1980: 624-692.
Mckenna, G., S. Feingold. Takinng Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Political Issues. Connecticut: Duskin/ McGraw-Hill Companies, 1999.
Takari, Arnold. Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th Century America. New York: Oxford, 1990.