No, there isn’t a typo in the title of this article. I didn’t leave out the word, “marriage.” For one thing, it wouldn’t make sense for me to declare, “Legalize Gay Marriage,” considering in the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in all states, Washington D.C. as well as all U.S. territories except American Samoa. No, I meant exactly what I said in the title, “Legalize Gay!”
Yes…indeed, it is time that we universally legalize being gay in America. Now, I can see you sitting there with one eyebrow raised, wondering what I am I getting at. Ok, let me be more specific.
According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), the de facto legal bible for Georgia, O.C.G.A. 16-6-2, declares the act of sodomy to be a criminal offense. By the O.C.G.A., sodomy is defined as any act in which one performs or submits to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another. Not only does Georgia law declare that sodomy is a criminal offense, it also asserts this crime is of a felonious severity.
Indeed, if anyone was to dust off their handy-dandy Georgia law book and take a gander at 16-6-2, they would clearly see that the first subsection (a)(1), starting from the opening lines declares that, the only conceivable acts of intimacy between same-sex couples, is a criminal offense. However, and understandably this is a BIG HOWEVER, if one follows the weaving web of legal language to the end of this code section they will stumble upon something in italics that declares this law has been held unconstitutional in the case of Powell v. State (1998).
Are you confused yet? Of course, you are! Why wouldn’t you be confused? Indeed, the state of Georgia has a legal section in their official code book that outlines an act as being a criminal offense, yet then acknowledges that enforcing criminal culpability against one who engages in this "criminal act" is unconstitutional. In essence, Georgia lawmakers are saying, we consider sodomy to be illegal, however, the Georgia Supreme Court and those other appointed representatives who safeguard the rights of all citizens have said, “No, Georgia! You cannot make sodomy illegal according to the Bill of Rights.”
To understand the bizarre rationale behind this, one needs to understand the basis behind sodomy laws across the country. Beginning in the late 1960’s, as a young gay rights movement began to emerge as a legitimate force, many states invoked sodomy laws as a way to discrimination and target the gay community.
As the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s began to make way for the social and political progression of the 1970’s, nine states in the U.S. would end up explicitly rewriting their sodomy laws making the act only illegal for gay people. In many other states, the laws were only enforced as if they were aimed at gay people, and ignored the criminal liability in heterosexual conduct.
What ultimately makes it such a significant concern, that the invalidated yet stipulated, sodomy laws still exists on the books, relates to the manner in which sodomy laws were used against the gay community.
The truth is, there were not any widespread “bedroom raids” against members of the gay community. Which is probably a great thing, considering that 98% of the police forces in the 1960’s to 1970’s was comprised of men. Let’s be honest, there is a legitimate biased interpretation of homosexuality when it comes to straight men, and how they view gay women compared to gay men. Basically, the line to spy on the bedrooms of lesbian couples by law enforcement would have been considerably longer than the male counterparts. Luckily, the more sinister amongst our society never considered this, because if they had, they might have suddenly realized the opportunity to strike a blow against both women’s rights and gay rights in one fail swoop. Heck, add lesbian minority couples to the mix, and people like Lester Maddox or Jesse Helms would have called this plan a perfect triple crown.
In reality, sodomy laws were used against the gay community in another, more hostile and oppressive way. By making sodomy illegal, it defined the conduct of gay people as being illegal. Therefore, the homosexual community could not be considered a protected class. Essentially, it made it lawful to discriminate against the LGBT community, because they were “defined” by criminal conduct. The manner in which this was used against the gay community was alarming. For example, in nine states in the U.S., parents who conceived a child in a heterosexual relationship could have their children taken away from them, should they at any point enter an openly gay relationship. Other states refused to allow gay people to adopt or foster children.
Additionally, since being gay was technically illegal, and did not represent a protected class, sodomy laws were used to justify discriminating against the gay community in employment. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Romer v. Evans, that gay rights could not be prohibited and states could not discriminate against gay people on the basis of “disapproval.” However, that didn’t stop Georgia Attorney General Michael J. Bowers, in 1997 from refusing to hire a lesbian woman, on the basis that her sexual orientation was criminal under Georgia sodomy laws.
Ultimately, in 1998, in the case of Powell v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court would rule that the state’s sodomy law was unconstitutional, bringing an end to the ability to enforce criminal liability towards acts of sodomy or the gay community at large. Five years later, in Lawrence v. Texas would prove to be a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which all sodomy laws in the entire United States were deemed unconstitutional.
Which, brings us to 2017. Indeed, the modern day legal precedent of being able to define members of the gay community as being criminal by implied conduct is universally unlawful. However, the lingering effects of sodomy laws or de facto the criminalization of homosexuality are absolutely still in effect today.
The most significant factor that is still present today is that under federal anti-discrimination laws, LGBT is not considered a protected class of individuals. Which, means that protections for the LGBT community come down to state’s rights.
In twenty-eight states, housing discrimination against members of the LGBT community is fully legal.
In twenty-eight states, there are no laws barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender-identity.
Eighteen states have no laws in place that protect members of the LGBT community from being victims of defined hate crimes. Fortunately, as a result of the Matthew Shepard Act, federal hate crimes laws do cover sexual orientation. Unfortunately, it took a 21-year-old man to be beaten, tortured and killed in order for sexual orientation to be covered under federal hate crimes.
Ultimately, my point is that it doesn’t matter if Georgia’s current sodomy law has no teeth. The fact that it still sits on the books, even in helpless form, is the stain on the moral fabric of the state, the country, and humanity. The law sits there, brain-dead and in a coma, yet no one wants to pull the plug and take it off life support. As if deep down, some hope that it will once again come to life and rise from the dead. For society’s own ethical progression and in a demonstration that we wish to love our neighbors, no matter who they are, the law needs to be completely and utterly admonished from existence. This is a necessity in order to take meaningful strides to legalize being gay in America and end legally sanctioned discrimination.
At the end of the day, I’ll never for the life of me understand discrimination or persecution of the LGBT community. In all honestly, I can mitigate the thought processes behind how people confirm their prejudices against all other classes of people.
Turn on the news, or watch a movie, and the average person is inundated with caricature visuals of Black men being criminals. Change the channel, and another news program is going to show you a tanned skinned man, yelling “Allahu Akbar,” just before he does some really violent and horrible stuff. Scan through the internet, and you’re going to read about some Hispanic immigrant who’s “freeloading off the American taxpayer.” Pick up the paper, and there will be some angry White guy saluting Hitler, calling for death to the previously mentioned groups and the Jews.
All of those images are merely statistically minuscule glimpses of each representative class of people. However, they damn sure do provide really easy confirmation for people’s pre-existing racist or prejudice views.
However, you won’t turn on the TV, scroll through the internet, or pick up the paper and see a story about how Suzy-Q was walking to home from church, humming Taylor Swift as she enjoyed the beautiful and tranquil day, when suddenly two rabid gay men jumped out of the bushes and started banging it out right there in front of Suzy. As a result, another wholesome American life is ruined by the gay threat to moral values. Nope… you’ll never see that.
You won’t see members of the LGBT community trying to recruit straight America. If you are straight and perfectly content, GREAT! Because being gay isn’t contagious! So it’s not like suddenly, being around someone who’s gay is going to make you reject your heterosexuality and turn you into some gay vampire. No…literally, none of that is ever going to happen.
Most importantly, not one single heterosexual person’s sexuality defines who they are, so why in the hell should it define who a homosexual person is!!!
Now, in conclusion, anyone who thinks that their views on the LGBT community, or anything for that matter are unchangeable, I want to leave you with a little story. Remember, that Georgia Attorney General I mentioned earlier? Michael Bowers…the one who refused to hire a woman in 1997 because she was a lesbian?
Well, Mr. Bowers was also responsible for much more harm against the gay community during his tenure as Georgia’s top lawyer. In 1986, he successfully argued to the Supreme Court the case of Bowers v. Hardwick, which was the landmark ruling that provided the legal basis of anti-sodomy laws that were used to discriminate against the gay community.
So what’s Mr. Bowers up to nowadays? He is an attorney and lobbyist for the gay rights group, Georgia Equality. In 2015, he adamantly fought against state legislation that would have allowed for religious faith to justify discrimination against gays and others. In a 2015 interview with the New York Times, the 73-year-old attorney, who once was considered one of the most notorious anti-gay advocates in the country said he has significant regret for the pain he caused in the past. When probed what was one of the reasons that he had such a dramatic change of heart in his views. In the interview, Bowers pulled a Bible out and flipped it open and pointed to a single Bible passage. The passage was Jesus’ reply when asked, “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22.36.)
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22.39.