Court strikes down Arkansas sodomy law

An Arkansas circuit court judge recently declared the state's ban on consensual sex between adult, same-sex couples to be a violation of the state constitution, handing a victory to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community in Arkansas and across the nation.

Seven gay and lesbian plaintiffs, represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, filed suit against Arkansas' so-called sodomy law, charging that it violates the right to equal protection clause of the Arkansas Constitution. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge David Bogart agreed, stating, "It is consistent with this State's Constitution to hold that an adult's right to engage in consensual and noncommercial sexual activities in the privacy of that adult‚s home is a matter of intimate personal concern which is at the heart of the right to privacy in Arkansas."

Elizabeth Toledo, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the court's ruling is important because religious conservatives who oppose civil rights for GLBT people often use states' antiquated sodomy laws as a justification for denying those rights.

"Antiquated sodomy laws are at the heart of the religious right's efforts to ostracize and denigrate the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," Toledo said. "We are grateful to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and to the seven Arkansas residents who stood up and challenged this discriminatory law. Today is a wonderful day for our community in Arkansas and across the United States."

Four states - Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri - have sodomy laws that single out gay and lesbian people, although Missouri's law has been struck down by a lower court. 13 other states have sodomy laws that outlaw some forms of both heterosexual and homosexual activity.

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