Surprise! Sodomy Still Punishable In 18 States

You thought that the Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws in 2003? Think again.

Eighteen states have still not repealed the sodomy, “gross indecency”, and “crimes against nature” statutes on their law books and use these charges to levy heavier penalties on LGBT people, especially young homeless sex workers.

Part of the issue is that in his 2003 decision for Lawrence vs. Texas, the Supreme Court case that allegedly struck down all sodomy laws, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the ruling did not apply to minors, public conduct or prostitution.

That means that undercover cops can still solicit men for unpaid consensual sex and then arrest them for it; that anyone who publicly states that they’d like to have anal sex or a blowjob can be arrested; and that any person charged with a felony sex crime will have trouble getting a job and medical insurance as long as it stays on their record.

These laws also get disproportionately applied to LGBTs. While a straight teen getting head in a car might recieve a “indecent exposure” charge, a lesbian teen could get that as well as a “crimes against nature” or “sodomy” charge which would apply as a felony sex crime.

Queer rights group Equality Matters adds that police still enforce sodomy laws to arrest queers for private consensual acts in their bedrooms. Yes, the charges get overturned in court because of the Supreme Court decision, but in the meanwhile they drag innocent people through a costly and humiliating legal process.

These sodomy laws also perpetuate anti-LGBT animus that inspires some citizens to go out and bash queers vigilante-style—y’know, to protect public decency by killing someone in the streets.

Equality Matters says that repealing these laws “should be just as much of a priority for the LGBT community as is the struggle for marriage equality.” After all, sodomy doesn’t just refer to anal sex. It also refers to oral, meaning that these laws can affect heteros as well.

And when getting head is against the law, we all lose.