Sodomy ruling kills Missouri gay sex case

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 28 2003 12:00 AM ET

The Supreme Court ruling knocking down Texas's antigay sodomy law has invalidated a similar Missouri statute, prompting a Missouri county prosecutor to drop charges Thursday against six men who had previously been arrested in an adult theater. Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a statement that the high court ruling "appears to call into question" Missouri's law making gay sex a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Legal analysts and gay rights activists didn't hesitate in declaring the Missouri law nullified by the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling "has the effect of invalidating Missouri's law," said Denise Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. "This was a pretty sweeping Supreme Court ruling that recognized that all people have a fundamental right to intimate association that cannot be infringed by the state." Appearing at a St. Louis coffeehouse later in the day, where a crowd of about 100 had gathered to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling, Lieberman said, "I have a message for the gay community: Your love is no longer a crime."

Ken Jones, an attorney who publishes Missouri Lawyers Weekly, said, "In my opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the Missouri statute, which singles out homosexuals engaging in consensual sexual acts." Last year Jefferson County prosecutor Bob Wilkins used the statute to charge
six men who had been arrested during a raid at an adult theater. Wilkins said the activities were a threat to public health. The ACLU, representing four of the men, challenged the constitutionality of Missouri's same-sex-only sodomy law. That slowed the prosecution. Associate circuit judge Mark Stahl said he wouldn't rule in the case before the Supreme Court decided the Texas case. Wilkins said he will now move forward with what he calls "alternative charges" of sexual misconduct, filed last December, against the same six men as well as a woman who was also in the theater. Those charges rely on a law prohibiting two people from having sexual relations in front of a third person if the activity could "affront or alarm" that person. Wilkins acknowledged that "it's a much harder case to make," since the defendants willingly paid admission to enter a sexually oriented business.

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