Magazine article The Progressive

Lesbians and Gays Sue Arkansas

Magazine article The Progressive

Lesbians and Gays Sue Arkansas

Article excerpt

Seven gays and lesbians are suing Arkansas, charging that the state's sodomy law is unconstitutional.

Arkansas is one of six states that outlaw the consensual sexual relations of only lesbian and gay adults. It says homosexual anal and oral sex are misdemeanor crimes that carry maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"This law creates a second-class status for lesbians and gay men, criminalizing intimate, sexual behavior that is perfectly legal for non-gay people," says Suzanne Goldberg, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a New York advocacy group that is sponsoring the suit.

Some judges in other states have used sodomy laws as a basis for denying child custody to homosexual parents. In Virginia, a mother lost her two-year-old to the child's grandmother when a court determined she was unfit because of her sexuality.

Lambda intends to show that the Arkansas sodomy law violates privacy rights and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. The group has helped with successful legal challenges to sodomy laws in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Montana.

The state of Arkansas asked a Pulaski County judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the plaintiffs have no right to sue the attorney general and the county district attorney in their official capacities since the plaintiffs lack specific complaints against them. The state also argued that the suit should be dismissed because the plaintiffs haven't been arrested for violating the homosexual sodomy law. The attorney general's office could find no one prosecuted for breaking the law in private in the last seventy years.

"Whether these laws are being enforced or not, there is always the chance they will be enforced if they stay on the books," says Rebecca Isaacs, political director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C.

On June 23, Judge Collins Kilgore announced that the challenge to the state's sodomy ban could proceed. …

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