Category Archives: Rights

Why “Unenforceable” Sodomy Laws Really Aren’t

East Baton Rouge Sheriff GautreauxLast week a Baton Rouge, Louisiana sheriff’s office caught controversy over arresting over a dozen gay men for seeing free, consensual sex with other men.

When you scroll through the related headlines the same qualifier appears: Invalid—this invalid sodomy law, invalidated by the courts… but surely what gives a law its validity or its enforceability is its ability to achieve a desired action. For example, laws that put meth labbers in jail succeed in taking meth labbers out of meth labs. Laws that seek to tax average consumers over high income earners succeed in raising the price of rent, insurance, food, and all the other things the rich never worry about. And if the desired action of the Baton Rouge sheriff’s department is to create a hostile and unwelcoming environment for homosexuals, they’ve achieved that with gusto. Calling the law invalid serves only to invalidate the experiences of those whose lives are now ruined by this antiquated law. The Baton Rouge police don’t want to jail homosexuals and fill up the prisons with gay men. They want to run the gays out of town. Without retribution, and with no legal recourse for their victims, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

These men were outed by this “Bag-A-Fag” entrapment program to their families, their friends, and their communities. Their names are now attached to the word sodomy in background checks and crime blotters. While they are not facing conviction, they have still been charged with sex crimes and now carry the stigma included in those charges. In many jurisdictions where charges like this have been filed (although I’m not sure about Baton Rouge), those charged have had to file as sex offenders on a public online registry or face up to 15 years in state prison for “crimes against nature”.

Even more than that is the message this terrible law enforcement sends. It sends the message to young gay men that Louisiana is not the place for them; that they should leave or live in paranoia that their next hook-up will be a sting. The law says to those charged that they are unwelcome in their own communities and that the police—the public servants whose job it is to “serve and protect”—will never be on their side. Those charged can never be convicted, but they are all stigmatized, ostracized, and publicly outed. The message here is that gay men are lesser than other Americans, that their sexual expression is criminal, and that they should kill themselves or move away.

States with sodomy laws still on the books include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Current Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken “Transvaginal Ultrasound” Cuccinelli wants to bring Virginia’s sodomy law back into enforcement, obviously nostalgic for the days of institutionalized bigotry and community lynchings. His campaign for this law is being run under the guise of keeping children safe from sexual abuse, although the sodomy laws Ken is arguing for have nothing to do with children.

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Desmond Tutu: “I would not worship a God who is homophobic”

Now that I’ve spent my first post on eviscerating something stupid an ignorant Christian said, let me balance that out with something astounding a brilliant Christian has said.

On Friday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how I feel about this.” He continued: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

Tutu weighed queer equality for all against everlasting life for himself and, even though he is not queer himself, chose equality if the two are mutually exclusive. I have never heard as profound a statement from a Christian, and I’m unlikely to hear one again. For Christians, heaven is the ultimate reward. It’s what every Christian dedicates their entire life to earning. And for Desmond Tutu, if his queer brothers and sisters can’t have that reward, he won’t accept it for himself. He would rather spend an eternity in unendurable torment than live in an eternal paradise that was hetero-exclusive.

Christopher Hitchens offered a challenge in his later years: “Name one moral action performed by a believer that could not have been done by a nonbeliever.” To date, this challenge has not been answered in any satisfactory way, and not for lack of trying. I honestly feel, though, that Tutu comes close. A believer in heaven and hell believes that the stakes of the afterlife are infinitely higher than the aggregate of all the stakes you face in your real life. Tutu placed what he truly believes will be eternal punishment and reward on the line for a movement of global queer groups demanding equality. I have nothing of perceived comparable value to wager. Only a believer in heaven and hell could make this statement, and what a powerful statement it is!

Tutu: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

And, in a final show of genuine admiration, he equates the same work that consumed his long life and earned him his renown as a worldwide spiritual and activist leader to the work that is being done in the queer movement today. He lends every ounce of dedication and credibility he has for his personal work in ending Apartheid to the ending of anti-gay discrimination. Whereas his former statement about the afterlife, while impressive, wagers nothing of real value (heaven isn’t real), this follow-up cements his view just as firmly on the side of reality. Hardly anyone doubts his hard work, suffering, and wise leadership in the cause to end Apartheid, and he is putting the legacy of that same work, suffering, and wisdom on the line to whole-heartedly support queer rights.

Desmond Tutu, your religious words have duly impressed this atheist.

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