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Celebration & Rage

Reactions to Supreme Court sodomy law ruling swing both ways

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Is not. Is, too. Is not. Is, too. This sums up the state of the debate between gays and gay groups and conservative and religious leaders over whether the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a Texas ruling that had upheld the state's sodomy law is a true victory for the gay rights movement.

How it will impact local politics is even fuzzier. But it's sure to have some effect in a community that made national news for defunding arts groups over a play with homosexual themes, and in which members of the City Council, despite their generally progressive nature on other issues, don't want to discuss domestic benefits for gay partners.

The question that seems to be generating the most confusion and debate is whether the state's crimes against nature law can still be used against those who engage in banned sexual acts in public. The question is significant since police have long used the law to target gay men who "cruise" parks and other public places for sex partners.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Spokesperson Keith Bridges said on Monday that for now, the department will continue using the crimes against nature law currently on the books in North Carolina against those who engage in sexual acts in places considered to be public.

"We are reviewing it (the ruling) to see what kind of impact it does have, but until then it will be enforced as it was," said Bridges. "We certainly don't go into anyone's homes looking for bedroom violations."

After the ruling, Creative Loafing asked local activists on both sides of the debate what they thought of the ruling and what kind of effect it may have locally.

"I think in historic terms that lesbian and gay people will look at this as our Emancipation Proclamation. Before this decision, we had no security. The law has been enforced to a very painful degree against gay men in Charlotte. It has been used to terrorize and entrap gay men. On (the issue of) partnership benefits (for city employees), people like Bill James have been able to say well, these people engage in felony behavior. That argument is gone. It doesn't mean the issue is closed, but the opponents have lost one of their arguments. It knocks out a leg that justifies discrimination."

-- Former Superior Court Judge and state legislator Ray Warren, a gay rights activist.

"What the Supreme Court said was there is a right to engage in those acts but that's in someone's home. There's nothing that says that society or our laws or our elected officials have to accept as normal behavior that which we find to be perverted.

I don't think the arrests of homosexuals are going to stop because homosexuals as a group, it's a cultural deal, they don't act normal. They don't find themselves a husband or a wife. They go find themselves a tree in a park and some consenting adult. The court case said you can't arrest someone in the privacy of their own home. Well, we weren't doing that. We can still do stings like we're currently doing.

The Supreme Court didn't say that society had to accept homosexuals or allow them to adopt children or allow them to be foster parents. I'm sure homosexual activists would like to say, well, they endorsed our lifestyle. They didn't endorse your lifestyle. I think it's along the lines of child molestation, bestiality or for that matter drug use. If you're here, you're queer, and you do it, and it ain't in a private setting, we're still going to throw your rear end in jail. You just try it."

-- County Commissioner Bill James

"We're very elated with the decision. We think it's a long time coming. My biggest hope is that it will get rid of the big lie that all gays and lesbians are felons. That's the kind of lie that people like Bill James have continued to perpetuate. He has used that argument against us here in Charlotte to prevent us from being treated as equal citizens. Whenever we bring up domestic partner benefits or amending non-discrimination policies he says, "Well, they're Class-A felons so they can't get those benefits and they can't be recognized in non-discrimination policies.' It's time to let it go. We're not asking for special rights, we're asking for equal rights, and that's what the Supreme Court has said."

-- Phil Wells, attorney, helped form the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian political action committee and has also championed domestic partner benefits for city employees.

"A lot of people who are waiting for their religious leaders or their political leaders to say that gay people are OK are going to be able to say that the court ruled that there's nothing illegal, that privacy should be everyone's right. It kind of gives them permission to move to the next step."

-- Dan Kirsch, director of Charlotte's Lesbian & Gay Community Center.

"It's outrageous. I think it's totally an unconstitutional power grab, obviously. I'm sure the City Council will view this as a green light to extend domestic partner benefits to the employees. I'm sure that will spill over into county government also. It's just another sound of our social fabric being ripped and the thing that's really heinous about it is this impetus is coming from an unelected group of people who I guess view themselves as philosopher kings who can rule us as their subjects. It goes against everything the Founding Fathers established our system of government to prevent.

-- Martin Davis, who has fought to ban books with explicit content from the county's libraries.

"It's a puzzle for me. I've been wondering what the reaction of the District Attorney and the police would be. Charlotte's sort of unusual. There is really no strong rallying point for the gay and lesbian community to rally around even before the law was struck down, so you don't have a whole lot of activism going on here. The only tinderbox kind of issue is the arrests that take place in the park. So few of the organized gay and lesbian community are affected by that. It's not people who are in the gay community; it's closeted people. Solicitation for crimes against nature is most frequently used in police entrapment in the park. There are a couple of other charges that the police might go toward if they decide to continue any kinds of programs in the park."

-- Don King, longtime gay rights activist who has tracked local

police arrests of gay men charged with committing crimes against nature in public places.

"That law doesn't really apply to public acts of homosexuality. It only applies to those acts that occur within a private home. The law in North Carolina hasn't been prosecuting those cases anyway. It's still just as illegal and just as wrong as it ever was.

You've got too many liberal judges in America. I take a stand against evil because I see what it's doing to our children and our young people. The homosexuals are so determined to cram their lifestyle down the throats of all Americans. They're so determined to invade the homes, determined to invade the rearing of our children. They are determined to literally make America into a cesspool of homosexual conduct. They're angry. When I say this, I don't mean all of them. There's some people caught in the web of homosexuality and to them it's a state of moral depravity. Jesus can set a homosexual free of homosexuality just like he can set a heterosexual free of adultery."

-- Rev. Joe Chambers, Paw Creek Ministries

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