Press

Montana Kills Sodomy Law

Date: 
July 04, 1997

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered activists in Montana yesterday celebrated a victory when the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's sodomy law by ruling that sexual activity between consenting adults of the same-gender would no longer be illegal. The victory was nearly a quarter-century in the making.

In the case of Grayczan v. Montana, six gay and lesbian plaintiffs charged that the sodomy law violated their right to privacy which is guaranteed in the state's Constitution. "Quite simply consenting adults expect that neither the state nor their neighbors will be cohabitants in their bedrooms," said Justice James Nelson writing for the court.

Montana gay and lesbian activists worked hard to show that the law was unfair and denied them their guaranteed right to privacy. It was among the most severe of all the nation's sodomy laws because it prohibited same-gender "sexual contact"--not just the customary ban on anal and oral intercourse. Violators of the law could have faced up to ten years in prison and a maximum $50,000 in fines.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have now decriminalized sodomy. Twenty states continue to have sodomy laws. Five of these states --Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Maryland--have a same-gender sodomy only law. Fifteen states---Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Michigan and Minnesota have an opposite and same-gender sodomy law. Although the U.S. Supreme Court found no constitutional right to privacy for same-gender conduct, the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision permitted each state to decriminalize same-gender sodomy.

"Sodomy laws are the linchpin in every attack against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. They are used to criminalize our behavior and as the basis for discrimination in employment, housing, health care and family issues. We applaud the court for its decision but salute the tireless work of Montana activists that made yesterday's victory possible," said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Kerry Lobel.

For more reaction from Montana gay and lesbian activists to the state Supreme Court's decision, contact Sandy Hale at Pride! at (406) 442-9322. To see a visual representation of the status of sodomy laws in this country, visit our website at http://www.ngltf.org/downloads/sodomy797.pdf in Adobe Acrobat format.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.