Moral Low Ground

US Government

Gay Sex is Illegal in Kansas; Unconstitutional Sodomy Ban Challenged

Criminals in Kansas. (Photo:  Felipe Dário)

Criminals in Kansas. (Photo: Felipe Dário)

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, declared that state’s sodomy law unconstitutional. That was eight years ago. But in Kansas, sodomy remains a criminal offense, punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. This is clearly unconstitutional, yet the law is still on the books. Worse, anal and oral sex remain classified as “unnatural” and illegal, and the law has been used to mostly to target gay couples.

Now an equal rights group in the Sunflower State is asking the state’s Republican governor, a staunch homophobe, to repeal the odious sodomy law. According to the International Business Times, Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition, believes the law effectively makes homosexuals criminals. Witt told the Lawrence Journal-World that the law “technically criminalizes relationships and leaves us open to harassment by unscrupulous authorities who may still make arrests under the provisions of this statue.”

“We believe that the current statute, while ultimately unenforceable, is an affront to thousands of law-abiding gay and lesbian Kansans,” he said.

The unenforceable nature of the law is often cited by opponents of repeal as the main reason why it would be a waste of time and energy to have it removed from the books. But Governor Sam Brownback created an Office of the Repealer earlier this year to do exactly this sort of thing– repeal archaic, outdated and just plain stupid laws. Such laws, the governor argued, “are detrimental to the economic well-being of Kansas, hinder the growth of liberty and opportunities for Kansans and Kansas businesses, and defy a common-sense approach to governance.”

If criminalizing the sexual activity of two (or more) consenting adults isn’t hindering liberty, then what is?

The problem is that Brownback is an arch-conservative Christian fundamentalist who is dead-set against LGBT equality. He strongly supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He scores a 0% on gay issues from the Human Rights Campaign. While attending Texas Governor Rick Perry’s Jesus Summit in August, Brownback pressed palms with members of anti-gay Christian fundamentalist hate groups.

It’s not just gays that Brownback doesn’t like. He also apparently has little regard for rape victims or for students exercising their First Amendment rights. But I digress…

Needless to say, getting Kansas’ sodomy law repealed with Brownback in the governor’s office is not going to be easy. State Repealer Dennis Taylor wants it off the books, though, so there may be hope.

If you’re reading this in disbelief that such a law still exists in 2011, you’re not going to like this: 17 other states still have sodomy laws, and some try to enforce them. According to the International Business Times, two men were kicked out of an El Paso, Texas restaurant in 2009 for kissing. Police threatened to cite them for homosexual activity, despite the fact that they were in the very same state that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

In Montana, gay sex is a felony. And Republican lawmakers want to keep it that way, blocking an attempt to repeal the state’s sodomy law earlier this year.

Land of the free, indeed.

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