Lambda, Arkansas Activists To Announce Challenge to State Sodomy Ban

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Wednesday, January 28 -- News Conference at State Capitol Building
January 28, 1998

(NEW YORK, January 28, 1998) -- Representatives from several Arkansas organizations will join Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in Little Rock, Arkansas, this Wednesday to announce a lawsuit on behalf of seven courageous Arkansas lesbians and gay men against that state's sodomy ban.

Several of the plaintiffs also will attend the news conference.

"The government should not be in the business of policing the private behavior of consenting adults," said Lambda Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg. "This law creates a second-class status for lesbians and gay men, criminalizing intimate, sexual behavior that is perfectly legal for non-gay people. The Arkansas sodomy statute is used to cause terrible harm to gay people, depriving gay parents of custody of their children and putting people at risk of losing their professional licenses, their jobs, and their homes, simply for engaging in sexual intimacy with a loved one," she said.

The state statute makes certain sexual behaviors, including oral sex, between two adults of the same sex a misdemeanor, punishable by a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000.

Lambda will file the suit, seeking that the statute be declared unconstitutional, in the Chancery Court of Pulaski County, in Little Rock. The plaintiffs argue that the statute violates their rights to equal treatment and privacy.

Arkansas is one of six states that single out and criminalize the consensual sexual relations of only lesbian and gay couples. Lambda recently helped overturn similar same-sex bans in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Montana, and continues to fight to enforce the equal protection and privacy rights of lesbians and gay men nationwide. The United States Supreme Court's 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans provides a new and powerful federal tool for attacking these discriminatory criminal laws.

    WHO: Suzanne B. Goldberg, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
    David Ivers, Mitchell, Blackstock & Barnes
    Several plaintiffs and representatives of Arkansas organizations that support the lawsuit

    WHAT: Announcement of legal challenge to state ban on sodomy for lesbians and gays

    WHEN: Wednesday, January 28, 11 am CST

    WHERE: Rotunda, State Capitol Building, Little Rock, Arkansas

    CONTACT: Peg Byron, 212-809-8585, ext. 230 or 888-987-1984 (pager)

    Picado v. Bryant



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