By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 17 2014 8:47 PM ET
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that the state’s antisodomy law is unconstitutional – 11 years after the U.S. Supreme Court made that ruling regarding all such laws.
Despite the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down all state antisodomy laws, about a dozen states still have these laws on the books and attempt to enforce them. In the Alabama case, Dewayne Williams was charged with first-degree sodomy in 2010, and a Dallas County jury convicted him of the lesser offense of sexual misconduct, which is included in the sodomy statute, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. His sexual partner claimed Williams forced him to have sex, but Williams said the act was consensual.
Williams appealed his conviction, arguing that the law violates the U.S. Constitution, as the Supreme Court found in Lawrence v. Texas, and the Alabama appeals court agreed unanimously. The court noted in its ruling, issued Friday, that the purpose of the antisodomy law was to ban all homosexual sex acts, including those that are consensual. The statute explicitly states that consent is no defense.
Prosecutors in the case still say the sex between Williams and the other man was nonconsensual, and they asked the appeals court to strike the “consent is no defense” language from the law and allow Williams to be tried again for nonconsensual sodomy. The appeals court judges refused, saying this would subject the defendant to “double jeopardy” – being tried twice for the same crime, which is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
Civil rights advocates praised the appeals court’s ruling. “Aiming to ban consensual sex is flat-out wrong,” Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, told the Advertiser. “A person’s sexual orientation shouldn’t matter. Consensual sex is consensual sex.”
In a prepared statement, Equality Alabama chairman Ben Cooper said, “Each and every person, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, is entitled to equal protection under the law. The Alabama court’s unanimous decision overturning the statute is a step in the right direction and makes us optimistic for future and ongoing equal rights through the continued elimination of unconstitutional provisions in our state’s constitution that violate privacy and equal protections.”