Stop Enforcing Unconstitutional Sodomy Laws

Target: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Goal: End the continued enforcement of unconstitutional state laws prohibiting consensual, non-commercial sexual activity between adults

In 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States declared state laws prohibiting sexual intercourse between consenting adults to be unconstitutional. The case, called Lawrence v. Texas, held that such laws violate the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ guarantees of due process. At the time of the ruling, 14 states had such so-called sodomy laws, and in eleven of those states, including Louisiana, Michigan, and Virginia, those statutes applied to acts between heterosexual couples as well.

While a glad day for civil rights, the ruling, sadly, did not end the enforcement of those laws. Thirteen states still have sodomy laws on their books, and although unconstitutional, they are still used by law enforcement to intimidate and humiliate LGBT Americans, and by private individuals to justify discrimination. In 2008, a gay couple was arrested and charged under the state’s law, according to Equality Matters, and while the charges were eventually dropped, the trauma and humiliation cannot be erased. Just this year in Louisiana, it has come to light that the Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office has been conducting sting operations to arrest gay men for simply meeting and agreeing to have sex. In Virginia, the Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is campaigning on restoring the state’s “crimes against nature” statute, which a federal court recently confirmed as unconstitutional due to Lawrence. The anti-LGBT crowd is not content merely with denying same-sex couples legal rights; they are insistent one criminalizing their relationships, and heterosexual activities they disapprove of as well.

The Justice Department needs to address these ongoing civil rights violations. Attorney General Eric Holder needs to publicly affirm the unconstitutionality of these laws, and make sure that every state law enforcement agency and attorney general’s office understands that fact. Beyond words, Attorney General Holder needs to pursue civil rights actions against any law enforcement agency that attempts to enforce these laws. Please join in asking the Attorney General to do so.


Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,

Despite their being declared violations of Due Process by our nation’s highest court a decade ago, 13 states retain so-called sodomy laws which criminalize non-commercial, consensual sexual activities between adults. Despite their unconstitutionality, these laws continue to be enforced by some law enforcement agencies, and used to humiliate, intimidate, and persecute queer Americans under the color of law. I ask that you, as the highest law enforcement official in the nation, use your position to publicly declare that these laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable, and that you use your agency’s powers to pursue civil rights violation charges against any law enforcement officer or agency that uses these unconstitutional statutes to deprive gay and lesbian Americans of their rights under the color of law.

In the 13 states where these laws remain on the books, law enforcement agencies, as a matter of policy, use them to terrorize LGBT individuals. From North Carolina, where in 2008, Nelson Sloan and Ryan Flynn were arrested for private, consensual sex, to Louisiana, where the Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office has recently been forced to issue an apology for entrapping dozens of gay men, gay Americans risk arrest for exercising their rights. Even if these charges are dropped, or the case dismissed by judges, the trauma and stigma of arrest cannot be erased.

The Justice Department has the ability to make sure that these violations of gay Americans’ constitutional rights. As Attorney General, you have ability to make clear, through communications with state and local law enforcement agencies and by public statement, to make it clear that these laws cannot be enforced. Your Justice Department also has the ability to make sure that any agency that enforces, or permits the enforcement of such laws, is met with federal civil rights charges. I strongly urge you to use all of your Department’s powers to make sure that LGBT Americans can live free from fear, and that our nation’s law enforcement agencies do not use invalid laws to terrorize and stigmatize vulnerable minorities.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit:  InkSm3ar via DeviantArt

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