Press

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Woodhull Freedom Foundation Announce Joint Effort Study of U.S. Sex Laws

Date: 
May 28, 2004

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

Woodhull Freedom Foundation Media Contacts:
media@woodhullfoundation.org
Judy Guerin (202) 494-9555 or
Jeff Montgomery (313) 506-1847

Washington, D.C., May 28, 2004 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the Task Force) and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation and Federation (WFF) today announced the launch of a joint project to analyze sex laws throughout the U.S. The project will serve a dual purpose - to educate Americans about the prevalence and abuse of antiquated and unjust sex laws in the nation, and to give grassroots activists policy and organizing tools to work to change these laws.

"This project will be a significant step toward eliminating unjust laws that are used almost exclusively for the purpose of persecuting minorities," said Dr. Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and WFF board member. "Most Americans are unaware of the sex laws in this country and how those laws are used to selectively persecute individuals simply for their private and consensual sexual expression. We believe that once people are educated on these issues, they will demand change."

The laws which the project will address range from the archaic - like Michigan's law prohibiting unmarried people from having sex and living together - to the grossly unjust - like Kansas' differing age of consent laws based on the gender of the persons involved - to those addressing facially valid public policy concerns - like laws against public lewdness, but which are routinely misused to persecute and prosecute people who participate in non-traditional forms of sexual expression.

"I've seen firsthand how the misuse of these laws has ruined the lives of gay and bisexual men," said Matt Foreman, the Task Force's Executive Director. "Few victims of this abuse ever come forward for fear of further embarrassment and the system counts on this silence. We intend to shine some light on these shameful practices." Foreman served as Executive Director of the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, the nation's largest gay victim assistance agency, from 1990-1996, and is a member of the New York City Human Rights Commission.

The project will have two phases. The first, a study of the laws with and case studies of how the laws have been selectively used to target minorities will be released at the Task Force's 17th Annual Creating Change Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, November 11-14. The second phase will include policy analysis, recommendations, and strategies for grassroots activists to use in overturning the laws or changing the way in which they are enforced.

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is devoted to education and public advocacy in support of the proposition that safe and consensual sexual expression is a fundamental human right. Based in Washington, DC, WFF brings together experienced, successful sexual freedom activists who seek to eliminate the barriers, governmental and private, to expressions of human sexuality in the United States and around the world. Helping to mobilize diverse grassroots communities, WFF utilizes lobbying, outreach, and education to help change antiquated and unjust sex laws. WFF supports civil liberties, emphasizing issues of sexual expression, sexual orientation, gender and racial discrimination.

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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.