Utah Refuses To Repeal Sodomy Law

Randy Blue / Chris & James
In Utah, state law says only married couples can engage in sodomy.
And that’s the way legislators want things to remain, even though a Supreme Court ruling says states can’t tell consenting adults what’s allowed in the privacy of their homes.
A bill that would repeal Utah’s sodomy statute, which prohibits oral and anal sex, never received a public hearing and is unlikely to be brought up for debate in the three remaining days of the legislative session.
Sen. Scott McCoy, a Salt Lake City Democrat who sponsored the bill and is the only openly gay member of the Senate, tried to get a repeal of the statute attached to another bill. It was removed by the Republican-controlled Senate without debate.
“I have a hard time understanding how the state could say we have an interest in the sex, in the intimate associations of two unmarried persons, but we don’t have an interest in the intimate associations of two married people,” McCoy said. “It’s black or white. It’s the exact same action. What’s the difference if it’s done in a married relationship? There’s no rational distinction between those two settings.”
Critics contend the Legislature’s refusal to repeal the law is a public indictment of unmarried couples and homosexuals.
“There is a stigma. I think that stigma is intentional on the state of Utah’s part. It’s saying that people who engage in sodomy, be it heterosexual or homosexual, that those people who engage in sodomy are set aside. They are not good people and are immoral in some way,” said civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, who has tried for more than a decade to get courts to overturn Utah’s sodomy law.
Most Utah residents and members of the Legislature are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which considers homosexuality a sin that prevents its members from reaching the highest level of heaven.
Senate Majority Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was flabbergasted when asked why sodomy should be illegal.
“If you have to ask why sodomy should be illegal in Utah …,” Bramble said, his words trailing off. “Because I believe sodomy should be illegal in Utah.”
It was Bramble who sought the Senate’s approval to remove McCoy’s amendment from House Bill 86, which would increase penalties for those convicted of a sexual offense against a child. Sodomy against a child would still have been illegal under the bill.
That bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said he was pleased McCoy’s amendment was removed.
“I did not want it attached to my bill and did not want to go down in history as the representative who legalized sodomy in Utah,” Wimmer said. “My bill, which is the most comprehensive (sex offender) bill seen in decades, was about stopping and restricting predators, not expanding a person’s agenda.”
But Barnard sees it as a statement of the Legislature’s agenda.
“What it does is it sets Utah apart as being a backward state,” he said. “It is a way of making a statement — moralizing, if you will — and attempting to dictate to people what should or should not be done, and it’s none of the damn business of the state of Utah.”
The sodomy law has rarely been enforced in Utah and courts have refused to hear Barnard’s lawsuits challenging it. But he said as long as the law is on the books, police have an obligation to enforce it. That could result in months of embarrassment for someone charged with the crime before it is found unconstitutional, he said.
McCoy said he believes most lawmakers have no problem removing the state’s sodomy statute. But, he said, they’re concerned how that might look to their constituents. He said even though his bill won’t get a floor hearing, at least it brings attention to the issue.
“This is an old, antiquated law we should get rid of. Maybe the openly gay senator running a bill that is nothing but that issue is perhaps not the way we’re going to get it done,” he said. “However, someone else running a bill that has a bunch of stuff in it, just in there a little lower profile, might get the job done.”
from The Daily Herald

Randy Blue

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