Sodomy Anal or oral intercourse between human beings, or any sexual relations between a human being and an animal, the act of which may be punishable as a criminal offense.
The word sodomy acquired different meanings over time. Under the Common Law, sodomy consisted of anal intercourse. Traditionally courts and statutes referred to it as a "crime against nature" or as copulation "against the order of nature." In the United States, the term eventually encompassed oral sex as well as anal sex. The crime of sodomy was classified as a felony.
Because homosexual activity involves anal and oral sex, gay men were the primary target of sodomy laws. Culturally and historically, homosexual activity was seen as unnatural or perverse. The term sodomy refers to the homosexual activities of men in the story of the city of Sodom in the Bible. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their residents' immorality became a central part of Western attitudes toward forms of non-procreative sexual activity and same-sex relations.
Beginning with Illinois in 1961, state legislatures reexamined their sodomy statutes. Twenty-seven states repealed these laws, usually as a part of a general revision of the criminal code and with the recognition that heterosexuals engage in oral and anal sex. In addition, state courts in 10 states applied state constitutional provisions to invalidate sodomy laws. As of early 2003, eight states had laws that barred heterosexual and homosexual sodomy. Three other states barred sodomy between homosexuals.
In Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 106 S. Ct. 2841, 92 L. Ed. 2d 140 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Georgia sodomy statute. Michael Hardwick was arrested and charged with sodomy for engaging in oral sex with a consenting male adult in his home. A police officer was let into Hardwick's home to serve a warrant and saw the sexual act. Although the state prosecutor declined to prosecute the case, Hardwick brought suit in federal court asking that the statute be declared unconstitutional.
On a 5–4 vote, the Court upheld the law. Writing for the majority, Justice byron r. white rejected the argument that previous decisions such as the Court's rulings on Abortion and contraception had created a right of privacy that extended to homosexual sodomy. Instead, the Court drew a sharp distinction between the previous cases, which involved "family, marriage, or procreation," and homosexual activity.
The Court also rejected the argument that there is a fundamental right to engage in homosexual activity. Prohibitions against sodomy were in the laws of most states since the nation's founding. To the argument that homosexual activity should be protected when it occurs in the privacy of a home, White stated that "otherwise illegal conduct is not always immunized whenever it occurs in the home." Because the claim in the case involved only homosexual sodomy, the Court expressed no opinion about the constitutionality of the statute as applied to acts of heterosexual sodomy.
The Bowers decision was severly criticized. Justice lewis powell, who voted with the majority, later stated that he had made a mistake in voting to affirm the law. In July 2003 the Supreme Court reversed itself on the issue of sodomy. In Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. ___, 123 S. Ct. 2472, 156 L. Ed. 2d 508, in a 6–3 decision, the Court invalidated a Texas anti-homosexual sodomy law by invoking the constitutional rights to privacy.
sodomy n. anal copulation by a man inserting his penis in the anus either of another man or a woman. If accomplished by force, without consent, or with someone incapable of consent, sodomy is a felony in all states in the same way that rape is. Homosexual (male to male) sodomy between consenting adults has also been found a felony, but increasingly is either decriminalized or seldom prosecuted. Sodomy with a consenting adult female is virtually never prosecuted even in those states in which it remains on the books as a criminal offense. However, there have been a few cases, including one in Indiana, in which a now-estranged wife insisted that a husband be charged with sodomy for sexual acts while they were living together. Traditionally sodomy was called "the crime against nature." Sodomy does not include oral copulation or sexual acts with animals (bestiality).
Sex Offenses A class of sexual conduct prohibited by the law.
Since the 1970s this area of the law has undergone significant changes and reforms. Although the commission of sex offenses is not new, public awareness and concern regarding sex offenses have grown, resulting in the implementation of new rules of evidence and procedure, new police methods and techniques, and new approaches to the investigation and prosecution of sex offenses.
The liberty interest recognized by the doctrine of substantive due process permits individuals to lead their lives free from unreasonable and arbitrary governmental impositions. Nevertheless, this liberty interest does not require the absence of all governmental restraint. Economic regulations will be upheld under the Due Process Clause so long as they serve a rational purpose, while noneconomic regulations normally will be sustained if they do not impinge on a fundamental liberty and otherwise are reasonable.
The U.S. Supreme Court continues to revisit the concept of substantive due process. In 2003 the Supreme Court was asked to review the constitutionality of a Texas statute criminalizing homosexual Sodomy. The statute made it a misdemeanor for a person to engage in "deviate sexual intercourse" with another individual of the same sex, but did not prohibit such conduct when undertaken with a person of the opposite sex. The defendant, an adult male, was arrested for violating the statute by engaging in consensual homosexual relations in the privacy of his home. The Court found that Texas Penal Code section 21.06 violated substantive due process by creating this double standard governing the legality of oral and anal sex between heterosexual and homosexual partners. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S.___, 123 S.Ct. 2472, 156 L.Ed. 2d 508 (U.S., Jun 26, 2003). Justice anthony kennedy wrote the 6–3 decision.
Overruling a 17-year-old precedent, Kennedy said that history and tradition are the starting point, but not in all cases the ending point, of substantive due process inquiry. In Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 106 S.Ct. 2841, 92 L.Ed. 2d 140 (1986), which rejected a claim advocating recognition for an almost identical substantive due process liberty interest, Kennedy maintained that the Court had failed to appreciate the nature and scope of the liberty interest at stake. "To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward [in that case], just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse," Justice Kennedy explained. Although "[t]he laws involved in Bowers and here are … statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act…. [t]heir penalties and purposes … have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home," the Court continued. The statutes in question "seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals."
The deficiencies in Bowers became even more apparent in the years following its announcement, Justice Kennedy observed. The 25 states with laws prohibiting sodomy in Bowers had been reduced to 13 by 2003, and four of those 13 states applied their laws only against homosexual conduct. But even in the states where homosexual sodomy is proscribed, Kennedy emphasized, there is a pattern of nonenforcement with respect to consenting adults acting in private. Thus, the Court concluded that homosexuals enjoy a constitutionally protected liberty under the Due Process Clause and that liberty gives them a right to engage in private consensual sexual activity without intervention of government.
While the word sodomy in its contemporary context is generally used to mean "ass rape" or at least "anal sex", historically and legally the term has had a much broader meaning. Originating in the 11th century, the word sodomy was coined by Saint Peter Damian to replace the earlier term "Sin of Sodom". (Sodom and Gomorrah being those cities in the Bible which were destroyed by God for their unredeemable moral depravity. See Sodomy and the Bible). Interestingly enough, over the centuries many bible thumpers have forgotten that the "Sin of Sodom" never referred to a singular sin (like ass humping), but rather to a collective of sin (i.e. all the sin accumulated in Sodom). The unclean acts that contributed to this cesspool of sin included, but were not limited to:
Anal SexBestialityOral Sex Sex outside of wedlock (a.k.a. fornication) Mutual masturbation Selling sexual favors in the name of God/Goddesses (temple prostitution was big with certain pagan religions in and around the Holy Land)
While St. Peter himself had originally included solo masturbation under the heading "Sodomy", later religious thinkers, gave it its own separate heading, "Onanism" -- perhaps to better differentiate the more childlike vice of self-pleasuring from sins which showed more spiritual deviancy. Oddly, although lying with mankind, as with womankind was an abomination in the bible, evidence shows that homosexual marriages were still sanctioned and performed in the Christian church, at least up until the Middle Ages. It wasn't until the 16th or 17th Century (specifically in England) that the term "sodomite" ceased referring to the ancient residents of Sodom and Gomorrah and began to refer to sexual deviants -- primarily to those who took it dans le bosphore. But even though sodomite began to more and more refer to homosexual men, lesbians too were called sodomites and, technically, everyone -- whether hetero or homo -- who engaged in oral sex, anal sex, or bestiality were also sodomites.
As quaint as all this may seem, it is actually vitally important information for understanding the modern legal codes that govern our sexual behavior. Law depends upon tradition. Democratic governments typically cannot pass a law unless it has the popular support of its constituents. On the other hand, people tend to support a law that seems "good and right" -- and to elect lawmakers whose laws and persons also appear to be good and right.
But unfortunately what causes us to decide what is "good and right" is not always rational thinking (i.e. a careful consideration of real life causes and effects), but fears and conditioned assumptions. Thus it is that long-standing laws often reflect the fears and prejudices of earlier generations -- and legal reform is required to bring such laws into accord with our modern perspective, and our current understanding of what is good and right.
But while our modern attitudes about sexual activity may have changed by leaps and bounds since the era of the Kinsey Report and Master's and Johnson, very few people have wanted to stand up -- on behalf of pussylickers and assfuckers everywhere -- and demand that our laws be updated.
Consequently, until the mid 1970s it was against the law to be a pussylicker or an assfucker (or a cocksucker, or a mutual masturbator) in most parts of the United States. While such laws were often not enforced, the penalties accompanying them could potentially be quite severe. For example, in the state of Oklahoma, conviction under sodomy law could actually land you as much as 20 years in prison -- even if the person with whom the individual had committed sodomy was a fully consenting adult.
It was not until a recent Supreme Court decision, in June 2003, that these archaic laws were largely struck down. Notable exceptions still remain however, and kink-loving consenting adults should acquaint themselves with local and state law before gettin' their freak on.
These rule of thumb holds especially true if one is planning to travel to a foreign country. Many Islamic nations still proscribe the death penalty for fornication, homosexuality, and other deviations from the prescribed norm.
The excitement began on September 17 of 1998 when a neighbor, for reasons of his own, called the Harris County Texas Sheriff's department to falsely report that the man in the apartment next door was "going crazy" and had a gun. Sheriff's deputies, responding in all good faith to the call, entered said appartment and found another situation entirely -- the resident and a same sex friend going at in the throes of homosexual affection. And while this is not quite a hanging offense in Texas, it is a class C misdemeanor and will earn you a little jail time and a $500 fine. Not to mention public ridicule and a lifetime of potential ass kickings and job dismissals.
Since the mid 1970s considerable progress has been made in striking such laws from the books, but the progress has not gone nearly as far as one might think. In 1987, the U. S. Supreme Court decreed (in Bowers v. Hardwick), that the right to privacy does not include those engaging in "homosexual sodomy." Meaning that what you do in your own home behind closed doors can never be purely your own business, if it involves a same sex partner. Homosexual conduct, it was inferred, could be outlawed, monitored, and punished by the government. Meanwhile, in many various parts of the U.S. heterosexuals too could be punished for engaging in various sex acts (typically oral or anal sex) -- under sodomy laws.
In 1994 the United Nations proclaimed that sodomy laws were a violation provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Considering that the United States ratified the ICCPR, and is bound by its provisions, you might assume that this put an end to state and local sodomy laws. Wrong. As is often observed, no one pays much attention to the United Nations -- unless it could yield them a substantial Foreign Aid package.
So meanwhile, archaic and horrific sodomy laws stayed on the books. Few people wanted to call attention to themselves for wanting to trash civilization as we know it by giving the green light to ass fucking, cunt slurping and so on. For many practitioners of the arts, this was not a problem as long as they stayed away from under age partners, public displays, video cameras, and other ways of calling attention to themselves.
But for homosexuals such laws forced them to choose between living a life of nervous secrecy ("in the closet") and living their lives truthfully and in the open where they could be arrested for trangressing against sodomy laws. Some states went so far as to say that ass-fucking was fine (or at least nobody's business) between heterosexuals, but criminal between same sex partners (Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Maryland particularly singled out gays).
Fines and jail time were not the only threats looming however. Individuals who admitted to or were accused of sodomy found themselves on extremely shaky ground when it came to adoption, foster parenting, child custody hearings, or running for public office.
Now, if you're a fag hater, you probably don't give a damn. "Serves 'em right." But even if you are a fag hater, it should occur to you that the United States government has no business telling people who they can and can't fuck and in what orifice(s) -- as long as said persons are in the privacy of their own home and providing that all parties are consenting adults. That is, it's one thing to hold nasty little opinions about other people's sexual orientations, it's another entirely to embue uptight dweebs in conservative suits with the power to control the most intimate aspects of our existence. It sets a very bad precedence. (i.e. The next person they regulate could be you.)
Furthermore, because the arguments against homosexuality and other activities covered by sodomy laws were often based on interpretations of scriptures in the Bible prohibiting sodomy -- that is, on moral standards taken from one interpretation of a particular religion's holy book. Such laws were an implicit violation of the separation of Church and State.
And yet in much of the United States, state and local governments and religious conservatives continued to have exactly that kind of power -- read the laws regarding sodomy in the various 50 states.
But it was all fated to change once Tyrone Garner and John Geddes Lawrence were dragged off to jail for violating Chapter 21, Sec. 21.01 of the Texas Penal Code ("A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.").
No doubt the arresting officers assumed that the two "fags" in question would simply wither away in shame under the glare of the public spotlight, pay their respective fines, and crawl back under the rock they assuredly came from. But instead Tyrone Garner and John Geddes Lawrence made a federal case out of it, literally -- taking their fight to the United States Supreme Court.
On June 26, 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States blew the minds of sexually uptight bigots across the Southland by declaring that what two gay men did to each other in the privacy of their Texas apartments was nobody's business -- no matter how "unnatural" it might seem in the eyes of God and the neighbors. (Read the Supreme Court Ruling)
But because such rulings set legal precedents, the effects of this decision were even farther reaching. Meaning that sodomy laws in other states are now invalid as well (except for those dealing with public acts of sodomy). And as if that were not enough, the ruling also affects past sodomy convictions, meaning that some individuals serving time or under restrictions due to conviction under sodomy laws may be able to appeal their conviction.
We have compiled a comprehensive collection of U.S. laws covering sodomy and related adult behaviors. We are seeking help from volunteers who can either obtain electronic copies of certain court cases or help converting them to electronic format for inclusion in this collection. If you can help with this effort, please get in touch.
The following state laws explain the legal penalties for consensual sexual behavior between a person's sexual organs and the mouth or anus of another. These acts fall under the general legal rubric of sodomy or crimes against nature where it is marginalized, banned, and penalized. Related acts and questionable laws are also provided where applicable. States which attempt a rational explanation claim that these acts harm the "moral welfare" of society and they have decided that all harm to "moral welfare" can be best remedied by strict penalties imposed against the individuals who partake in those behaviors. No state has attempted to explain how any particular private consensual act between adults harms the "moral welfare" of society but still the laws remain on the books and legal enforcement continues. This causes citizens to lose respect for the legal system and to not take its laws seriously because they assume that other laws share the same irrational, unreasonable, and ignorant basis.
To prevent further erosion of public respect many states have repealed their laws that previously banned consensual sexual behavior between adults. If government wishes that citizens treat its edicts with respect, the repeal of all unjust laws immediately is required.
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