April 29, 2003

The Court and sodomy laws

State anti-sodomy laws have been brought up to the Supreme Court with Lawrence v. Texas for the first time since the Court last upheld them in 1986. The Court's decision in this case will have ramifications in the states which currently now have laws prohibiting sodomy.

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's recent comments about the case equating sodomy with incest and bestiality have elicited a public outcry among both conservatives and liberals. This public outcry makes it all the more appropriate that the Court hear the case now. Society is ready to discuss repealing anti-sodomy laws, and the Court, by choosing to hear Lawrence v. Texas, is acknowledging this reality.

Arguments that legalizing sodomy will, by implication, legalize incest and polygamy are valid but underdeveloped. While legalizing sodomy nationwide might launch a slippery slope leading to legalized polygamy and incest, which society is much less prepared to accept than legalized sodomy, upholding anti-sodomy laws could just as easily lead to still more stringent legal restrictions on the private lives of Americans. The result of either slippery slope is undesirable and unacceptable.

Rather than living in fear of what a seemingly reasonable decision to strike down anti-sodomy laws could lead to, we should take note of the fact that while not every American approves of sodomy as an act or homosexuality in general, we as a society are ready to keep police out of our bedrooms.