Challenge to Arkansas Sodomy Law Reaches States Highest Court

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LBGT people and people living with HIV.

Our Sponsors

Argument on Thursday, May 13: Lambda fights second attempt to block case
May 10, 1999

(NEW YORK, May 10, 1999) -- As sodomy laws topple state by state, the Arkansas Supreme Court will hear a case challenging a ban against the private, consensual sexual activities of lesbians and gay men, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday.

On Thursday, May 13, Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg, on behalf of six lesbian and gay Arkansans challenging the sodomy law, will urge the Arkansas Supreme Court to reject efforts to have the case, Bryant v. Picado, thrown out of court.

Bryant v. Picado Attorneys and Plaintiffs.
Attorneys and plaintiffs in Bryant v. Picado in the State Capitol Building in Little Rock after filing the suit on January 28, 1998.

"Our clients suffer from a serious and on-going threat of prosecution under the Arkansas sodomy law. Even when no one is arrested under the law, it still brands lesbian and gay men in Arkansas as criminals, and puts us at risk of losing our jobs, homes, and custody of our children," said Goldberg. She added, "Our clients are entitled to seek relief in court from the grave effects of this harmful, irrational law."

The defendants, the Arkansas Attorney General and the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney, are appealing a June 1998 decision by Chancery Court Judge Collins Kilgore denying their motion to dismiss the case. In his ruling, Judge Kilgore found that because the plaintiffs "live and suffer harms associated with continuing threats of criminal prosecution under a constitutionally suspect scheme," there were sufficient grounds to challenge the law.

The Arkansas sodomy law, which forbids oral and anal sex between two adults of the same sex, carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1000. Because the law does not apply to the same acts when done by different-sex couples, the plaintiffs argue that the sodomy ban treats lesbians and gay Arkansans as second-class citizens in violation of equal protection guarantees and privacy rights under the federal and state constitutions.

Seventeen states still have laws that criminalize certain private sexual acts between consenting adults; of these, five states, including Arkansas, have sodomy laws that single out lesbians and gay men. Lambda recently helped to overturn sodomy laws in Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and is also challenging the Texas sodomy law on behalf of two men arrested while having sex in a private apartment.

Lambda Cooperating Attorneys David Ivers and Emily Sneddon of Michell, Blackstock & Barnes, and Arkansas attorney Gary Sullivan, are also assisting in the case. Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS.

WHAT: Oral argument in Bryant v. Picado, the case challenging the state sodomy law WHO: Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Suzanne B. Goldberg argues on behalf of six lesbian and gay Arkansans seeking to overturn the law; Goldberg, some of the plaintiffs, and their other attorneys will be available to answer questions after the hearing WHERE: Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Building, 625 Marshall Street, Little Rock, Arkansas WHEN: Thursday, May 13, 1999, 9:00 a.m.

(Bryant v. Picado, No. 98-01223)


Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager); Suzanne B. Goldberg 212-809-8585 x 214


Contact Info

Related Issues