Challenge to Same-Sex Sodomy Ban Can Proceed

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State judge rejects defendants' motion to keep gay Arkansans out of court

Date

Date: 
06/23/1998

(NEW YORK, June 23, 1998) -- An Arkansas judge Tuesday gave the green light for a constitutional challenge to the state's criminal ban on certain private sexual activities between consenting adults of the same sex, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said.

Judge Collins Kilgore of the Pulaski County (Arkansas) Chancery Court disagreed with the defendants' arguments that the law imposes no real injury on the seven lesbian and gay plaintiffs. "This Court finds that Plaintiffs have standing [to sue] where the challenged Act affects conduct so intimate and private," Judge Kilgore wrote.

Rejecting other arguments by the defendants, Arkansas Attorney General and the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney, the Judge also concluded that the plaintiffs could seek a remedy in the Chancery Court and found it unacceptable for them "to live and suffer the harms associated with continuing threats of criminal prosecution under a constitutionally suspect scheme."

Lambda Managing Attorney Ruth Harlow said, "We are heartened that the defendant state officials did not succeed in blocking the courthouse door to lesbian and gay Arkansans. As the judge recognized, our clients deserve a hearing on the substance of their serious constitutional claims against this law."

The case, Picado v. Bryant, will now proceed to a ruling on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims.

Plaintiffs contend that the state's sodomy law, which forbids oral and anal sex between two adults of the same sex and does not apply to heterosexuals, treats lesbians and gay men in Arkansas as second-class citizens in violation of equal protection guarantees and gay Arkansans' right to privacy. The statute carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000.

Lambda Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg argued against the defendants' motion to dismiss on May 29, 1998. Lambda, with Arkansas attorneys David Ivers and Gary Sullivan, filed the challenge on January 28, 1998.

Arkansas is one of six states that single out and criminalize the consensual sexual activities of only lesbian and gay couples. Lambda recently helped overturn similar bans in Montana, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Lambda is the country's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS.


(Picado v. Bryant, No. OT98-432)

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Contact: Ruth Harlow 212-809-8585 x 210; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230 or 888-987-1984 pager; Joneil Adriano 212-809-8585 x 241

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