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National News

High Court's Term Ends; Sodomy Ruling Fuels "the Culture War"

June 27, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision yesterday striking down Texas' criminal sodomy law electrified both sides in what Justice Antonin Scalia called "the culture war," with advocates for gay civil rights and religious fundamentalism agreeing that the ruling could ultimately remove barriers to same-sex marriage.

"It is monumental," said Jon Davidson, a Los Angeles-based attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the two Houston men at the center of the case. But the case alarmed and angered advocates of Christian family values, for whom homosexuality is abhorrent. "We think this is the start of the court putting San Francisco values on the rest of the country," said Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute.

In the decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court ruled that the Texas law prohibiting homosexual sex was an unconstitutional violation of the right to privacy. The ruling is expected to apply to sodomy laws in 12 other states, including nine that ban oral or anal sex between heterosexual as well as homosexual couples.

Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan said the repercussions of the ruling might not be immediately apparent to the average American household. "Does it change what happens in the day-to-day lives of straight people? I'm not sure it does. But it does change the world in important ways," she said, by sending a powerful message that all adults should have the same rights in the nature of their intimate lives.

In opposing the decision, Christian fundamentalists believe sodomy laws uphold society's interest in maintaining moral order and argue that the transmission of HIV gives society an interest in prohibiting gay sex. "This is one of the worst decisions the court has ever made, in my opinion," said Scott Lively, an attorney and director of the American Family Association California. "It is an exercise in judicial activism that puts a stamp of approval on anything-goes sexuality."

Back to other CDC news for June 27, 2003

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Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
06.27.03; Mitchell Landsberg; John M. Glionna

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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