[Talk] Colonel Bedroom | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Talk] Colonel Bedroom

If you think that Lawrence v. Texas is just about homosexuals, you're wrong. The crux of the decision is not really about love, or sex, or sodomy, or whatever you want to call it: It's about what Justice Louis Brandeis, way back in 1928, called "the right to be let alone." Justice Anthony Kennedy, in all his Ronald Reagan-appointed glory, wrote for the Court that "there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence." The decision leaves many Americans, gay or not, cheering that for the first time in years someone has put their foot down and said that the government can go no further.

Lawrence is about adults, and their "private and consensual" actions. Many people don't remember that states once had the power to ban birth control, and did so. But starting in 1965, the implied right to privacy became more and more powerful. The Supreme Court threw out bans on contraceptives for unmarried citizens. And with Mama Roe in 1973, they "recognized the right of a woman to make certain fundamental decisions affecting her destiny." While some people do not like those decisions, they must concede the central point: They indeed maximize our freedoms.

Mississippi had a sodomy law of our own, not like Texas'—which banned just same-sex sodomy—but a real old-school one. Code Section 97-29-59 provided that "[e]very person who shall be convicted of the detestable and abominable crime against nature committed with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not more than ten years."

That's the same language that they wrote the law with, way back in 1848.

What the hell does that mean? It meant enough that when Mississippi State's student newspaper, The Reflector, refused to run an ad in the 1973 on behalf of a group of gay Mississppians, the Fifth Circuit used our sodomy law as a compelling reason to deny their First Amendment argument.

It also ricocheted to the 1990s, when the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a cringe-worthy opinion firmly stating that fellatio and cunnilingus were crimes against nature. It was like hearing your grandmother talk about who Samantha is nailing on "Sex and the City."

For the most part, the law was simply another charge that could be ladled upon a criminal that had already done something heinous: child molesters, committers of incest and other garbage of society. It does seem that it was used in a 1976 case solely to penalize a Sunflower County man for having anal sex with another man. But just like Texas' law, it was rarely enforced. So why is it such a big deal?

Call it the Colonel Reb of the bedroom. Perhaps it doesn't hurt anybody—but it's still a reminder from another era that 21st America is deciding to kick to the curb. Except, unlike Colonel Reb, this one could put you in jail for some Saturday-night action with the wife after the kids went to bed.

Lawrence is a decision that ought to please Democrats and Republicans alike, but it won't. Justice Antonin Scalia stamps his feet in the case's dissent about the "homosexual agenda." But, maybe Lawrence just puts another coat of armor on that 211-year-old shield we call our Bill of Rights.

Previous Comments

ID
64000
Comment

This article seems to minimize the effect of this ruling and its effect in the past, especially for the queer community. When you weigh gay sodomy trials and issues vs. straight sodomy trials and issues, it is evident there is a huge imbalance favoring(?) the gay community. I know of four cases off the top of my head that have seen horrible outcomes due to Mississippi's sodomy laws in the last 10 years, especially the the David Weigand case. None of these were mentioned but weigh heavy on why this law needed to be removed for the sake of equal treatment and fairness. A simple Google rendered stacks of cases and situations across the nation where 'sodomy' was used specifically against the gay community in many manners. Here's a few: -Mica England applied for a job as a police officer in Texas. The police department rejected her claiming that, as a lesbian, she was presumed to be violating Texas's " Homosexual Conduct" law and was therefore unfit to serve as a police officer. -When David Weigand learned that his ex-wife's new husband's drinking, drug use, and frequent violent outbursts endangered his son Paul, he asked a Mississippi court for custody. Although the court recognized that the young boy was at risk, it denied David's request for custody because his relationship with his male partner was considered "immoral" and violated Mississippi's sodomy statute. -Fred Smith raised his two sons, Kenny and Joey, from the time they were babies. Later, his partner Tim became a part of their family, loving and caring for the boys with Fred. The boys spent summers with their mother, Fred's ex-wife, as laid out in a custody agreement. However, when she remarried she uprooted the boys and argued for a change in custody. A North Carolina court removed the boys from Fred's custody using the state's sodomy laws as one of the reasons.

Author
Knol Aust
Date
2003-07-10T12:13:53-06:00
ID
64001
Comment

cont. -Virginia resident and Episcopal priest Linda Kaufman thought she would be a shoo-in to adopt a second foster child from the District of Columbia. After all, she had adopted a foster child a few years earlier and had proven herself to be a great parent. So when she contacted a child placement agency about adopting another needy child, she was optimistic even after being told that Virginia had denied a gay man an adoption because of the state's sodomy law. Undaunted, Linda pushed forward. Amazingly, though, Virginia gave Linda the same answer. It was only after Lambda Legal, joined by the ACLU, sued on Linda's behalf, and Virginia lost the first round of litigation, that the state finally relented. This excuse and many others have been used as nothing more than a legitimized, Judeo Christian witch hunt to criminalize and victimize families that do not match the American Family Association and the Family Research Council's standards. I'm glad JFP finally gave this issue as much space as the Affirmative Action ruling that haunted the front page for days but feel this could have been researched a little more to show how this ruling will undo and heal many wounds inflicted by our historically hateful nation. I, for one, am thankful I no longer have the dread of being at risk for job termination, apartment eviction, and a slew of other hateful motions because of such ignorant and 1984-ish laws that deem me a criminal in my own land while paying taxes. If you think race issues are bad in this state, step into the gay community and you will witness full-on legitimized oppression still being manufactured by our law-makers today! We are a state that does not believe hate crimes against gays are different than basic crimes. We are a state that does not believe gays can be good parents. We are a state that will not allow gays to adopt. We are a state that will not recognize gay unions formed in another state or country. We are a sad state in affairs and cares for our gay and lesbian neighbors. We are a sad state.

Author
Knol Aust
Date
2003-07-10T12:14:03-06:00
ID
64002
Comment

Powerful points, Knol. Thanks for weighing in. We'd love to hear from others, straight and gay, on what this case means to them.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-10T13:10:07-06:00
ID
64003
Comment

Knol, you know I believe that even small steps are important, and this one isn't small, it's gigantic. Our nation's Supreme Court has finally all of us the right to freedom in our own bedrooms. There's an old country song called "Behind Closed Doors" that beautifully illustrates in tame terms basically the same thing that Lawrence guarantees us. I think that your last paragraph is a dismal outlook on "our state." You can argue, rightfully, that our state government, or our state laws are antiquated and that many of the laws were silly and rude. There are thousands of Mississippians who have never believed in, or adhered to these. But, I for one am pleased with the outcome of the recent rulings. Basic freedoms are step by step becoming law.

Author
bingo
Date
2003-07-10T14:43:14-06:00
ID
64004
Comment

One thing I will add to Knol's comments: I certainly agree that gays and lesbians in Mississippi have not faced a supportive climate, which a gay man expressed recently in our magazine (before the affirmative action ruling, which has not been discussed in the print magazine, I believe. It certainly has not "haunted" anything, as if such a positive decisionóabout affirmative action or gay rights could possibly "haunt" anything.). And I sure don't see a reason to pit gay rights and race issues against each other to see which is worse. The truth is, *tolerance* is important, period. And tolerance for each other is at the root of the JFP's mission and has been since Day 1. We all, regardless of race or sexual preference or other dividers, need to band together to make Mississippi one of the most tolerant states in the nation. And I believe it can happen.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-10T16:15:01-06:00
ID
64005
Comment

I'm not saying the ruling isn't monumental or a positive thing. I am saying that we are LIGHT YEARS away from being able to make such positive decisions for our own citizens. Heck, just a few years ago we blatantly banned gay adoptions and unions from any state or country and recently stopped two lesbians from Vermont from acquiring a birth certificate of a child they adopted from Mississippi... This was all under Ronnie Musgrove's rule if that is an indicator of the timeline. I'm not talking about the days when carriages roamed downtown. This is the here and now. And by the way, I'm not sure how this is truly going to impact the gay community since it is still legal to discriminate against Mississippians for their sexual orientation. While the rest of the world, including our Canadian neighbors, are realizing 'moral' issues are not the government's business, Mississippi continues to push further into an archaic world where the elite, puritans make the calls... Sadly, no one even bats an eye when freedom restrictions are enacted by our government influenced by rich, religious organizations. This state has been cranking out anti-gay laws while other states (including neighbors) are attempting to irradicate the ones they have on the books. I ask, how are my views of this 'hospitality state' dismal when this is what's been painted by our state's legal system within the last few years? As my partner and I mesh and grow past 5 years of comittment, Mississippi is the last option, along with Florida, Utah and Arkansas when it comes to settling down and investing in a state and future. The US in general is becoming an unsettling option as countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and many others remove religious laws from the books. Small steps are great... But revolution is necessary and long overdue. From Stonewall to now, the GLBT community has endured murders, beatings, police brutality, legal discrimination, hatred, family breakdowns by laws, and more with little understanding or sympathy from the governments that serve and protect them.

Author
Knol Aust
Date
2003-07-10T16:50:42-06:00
ID
64006
Comment

And while I would love to say voting is a solution, it is not the easiest or welcoming from a gay perspective. The only way to fix this issue is to remove the lobbyists and the money that extend from the AFA, FRC and SBC into our political system. We (MS) are one of their strongholds... and of course, few politicians can say no to $$$ regardless of its source... And I'm afraid what's left of Mississippi's fleeing gay community cares little about investing in a state that does not care about them. It's easier to move and spend that money in a place where the politicians have not built walls to penalize the community. Any urban developer, sociologist, or intelligent creature will tell you when the GLBT community is not interested in staying, bigger problems are lurking in the near future or present. Where there are gays, the community seems to flourish for reasons unknown. Ask Austin, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans and Atlanta...

Author
Knol Aust
Date
2003-07-10T16:52:02-06:00
ID
64007
Comment

Good point about the development issue. The book about building community that we like a lot ("The Rise of the Creative Class") talks directly about flourishing cities having a strong gay community and tolerance for diverse groups and lifestyles. Todd wrote about this book, including its tolerance message, way back in our preview issue, and the book is worth reading (although it's a little dry in places: "According to Professor Florida, creatives look for cities that show signs of diversity when choosing a place to live ó diversity indicates 'openness to outsiders' and acceptance of creative expression. In fact, Professor Florida finds a direct correlation between high-tech growth and diversity ó and not just ethnic and racial diversity, but also sexual orientation and domestic-partner acceptance. A city with a thriving creative community nearly always has a thriving gay community and companies that offer benefits, such as health insurance, to domestic partners. Professor Florida (quoting Bonnie Menes Kahn in the book 'Cosmopolitan City') writes, '[A] great city has two hallmarks: tolerance for strangers and intolerance for mediocrity.' The creative, high-tech town is built on merit, not on judgment. Thus, Professor Florida includes a 'diversity' quotient in his Creative Culture index." http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/cover_comments.php?id=111_0_9_0_C As for voting, I'd never argue that's it's the only solution to anything, but without enough people doing it, it's sure going to be difficult to have a foundation for any kind of progressive change.

Author
ladd
Date
2003-07-10T17:36:50-06:00
ID
64008
Comment

Knol, there's a difference between minimizing the effect of Lawrence on our gays and lesbians--which is triumphant--and also trying to maximize what it means to straights--which was less clear at the outset of the ruling. I wanted to show the readers of the JFP--gay and straight--that the ruling wasn't just about consensual private intimacy: it's about freedom. What my article examined was limited to Mississippi case law. While trial courts may have ruled on several sodomy cases in the past few years, only Mississippi Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases are reported. Those are the only things that are binding on lower courts, and that's what I examined. Cheer up, though, brother!

Author
David McCarty
Date
2003-07-10T18:32:52-06:00

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