Anti-gay laws, studies of homophobia; public opinion...
In the United States, laws prohibiting sexual behavior are the responsibility of
the individual states. The result was a patchwork quilt of laws across the country.
states had laws which banned specific sexual acts -- e.g. anal sex -- whether consensually performed by
same-sex couples or by heterosexual couples (married or not).
||Other states criminalized
certain sexual acts between homosexuals, but allowed the same activity among consenting
||Still other states had laws that prohibit "crimes against
nature", a phrase which is open to wide interpretation.
Although the term
"sodomy" is popularly defined as anal sex, the word eas commonly interpreted by
the courts as including both anal and oral sex. In some states, police utilize other laws
against gays and lesbians; e.g. "solicitation for indecent purposes."
The Georgia anti-sodomy state law was appealed to the US Supreme Court. In 1986, the
court upheld the law as constitutional. They decided that individuals have no fundamental
federal constitutional right to "engage in sodomy." (Bowers v. Hardwick,
478 U.S. 186).
One Internet source listed the status of anti-sodomy laws for various states as of
1995. 1 At that time, twenty states were believed to have had laws on the books: Alabama,
Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. Gays could get life imprisonment in Michigan for repeat
offenses. Many other states authorized jail sentences up to 10 or 20 years.
By mid-2003, the number of states with these laws had shrunk to 13. Finally,
on 2003-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas state law: Lawrence v. Texas.
One effect of this law was to declare all 13 state sodomy
laws unconstitutional. Another effect was to declare a new principle of
constitutional law: states are now severely restricted in criminalizing private,
consensual sexual activity by adults. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that gays are "entitled to respect for their private lives. The state
cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their
private sexual conduct a crime." Linda Greenhouse, a reporter for
The New York Times, said: "A conservative Supreme Court has now identified the gay rights
cause as a basic civil rights issue." 2 More information
In Canada, laws controlling sexual behavior are the responsibility of the Federal
government, and thus apply across the entire country. They permit sexual activities of all
types between two adults, although they currently have a higher age of consent for homosexual
than for heterosexual consensual sex. It is doubtful whether this form of discrimination
could withstand a constitutional challenge.
A study that appears to reveal a major cause of homophobia was completed at the
University of Georgia in 1996. 3 It involved 64 white men, none of whom had engaged in
homosexual acts during their lifetime. Their sexual fantasies involved only women. 35 of
them were rated homophobic; 29 non-homophobic. For the purpose of this study,
"homophobia" was defined as a negative emotional reaction (e.g., fear, anxiety,
anger, discomfort) to homosexuality. It was measured by a questionnaire called the Index
of Homophobia. Each was shown three types of X rated videotapes: heterosexual, lesbian
and gay. A plethysmograph measuring device (affectionately called a "peter
meter") measured the circumference of their penis as a gauge of sexual arousal.
The two groups exhibited similar arousal when they viewed 4 minute samples taken from
one heterosexual and one lesbian movie. But they responded differently to the male
|Degree of Tumescence:
The researchers concluded that these data are consistent with the belief that
most homophobic men have repressed homosexual desires. An alternative, but much less likely,
explanation is that the homophobic men's erections were caused by anxiety during the
is needed to clarify the results and to answer questions such as whether these results
would generalize to homophobic women.
One has to be extremely careful when interpreting poll data. The public's response
is seriously influenced by the exact wording of the question. Some data:
||A TIME/CNN poll in 1994 showed that 52% of US adults found the homosexual
lifestyle to be acceptable; this is an increase from 35% from 1978.|
||The National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago has been
asking a fixed set of questions for 24 years. From 1973 to 1996, the percentage of
Americans who think homosexuality is "wrong" declined from 73% to 61%.|
||An Angus-Reid poll in Canada showed that:
||78% of skeptics, non-Christians and atheists,
||68% of Roman Catholics,
||59% of United Church members (the largest Protestant denomination),
||63% of Anglicans (Episcopalians), and
||38% of what they termed "conservative" church members favor legal protection
from discrimination for gays and lesbians.
||The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted a telephone survey of
a random sampling of US adults. Results were:
||64% considered homosexual behavior "just plain wrong"
||50% believe that "male homosexuals are disgusting"
||45% believe that homosexuality "should not be condemned"
||Two University of California at Davis researchers, Gregory Herek and Eric
Glunt, found that the least homophobic persons:
||were politically liberal
||were highly educated
||knew a gay or lesbian person
Of these indicators, the last one is the most important. It would appear that the more
that gays and lesbians come out of the closet, the sooner homophobia will disappear as a
potent force in North America. This is not an easy thing to do; coming out frequently
leads to loss of employment, loss of accommodation, gay-bashing and even
Some of the common arguments are:
||Homosexuality is unnatural: There is an element of truth in this assertion. The
more than 90% of adults who are heterosexual find sexual attraction to a member of the
opposite sex to be natural; same-sex attraction for them is unnatural. However, for a
homosexual, the reverse is true. Same-sex attraction is the most natural thing in the
world for them; sexual activity with a member of the opposite sex is unnatural|
||Homosexuals attack the family: This argument is often used to
oppose recognition of same-sex relationships.
||Many religious liberals and others argue that If John and James
get married and Jane and Mary get married, then this does not
adversely affect Sue and Tom's marriage one iota. Recognition of
same-sex relationships does not attack marriage and the family; it
merely enlarges the meaning of the words "marriage" and "family" to
make them more inclusive.
||Most religious conservatives argue that marriage was created by
God as the first human institution. It is to be restricted to one man
and one woman. The repercussions of allowing gays and lesbians to
marry cannot be predicted in advance. More
||The Bible condemns homosexuality: Again, beliefs are divided.|
||Many religious conservatives often cite six biblical passages in
Genesis, Leviticus, Kings, Corinthians, Romans and Jude as proof that
God hates homosexuality.
||Many religious liberals liberals suggest that the Hebrew
Scriptures appear to condemn homosexual rape, homosexual prostitution and temple
prostitution, both homosexual and heterosexual. The Christian
Scriptures criticize male sexual abuse of boys, and heterosexuals engaging in
homosexual acts. None of the Biblical passages seem to apply to consensual
adult sexual activities
within committed homosexual partnerships.
||Homosexuals recruit young people: Adults who sexually
molest children usually do not have a fully developed sexual attraction to other
adults. Thus it is misleading to talk of them as homosexuals or heterosexuals. Where a
child molester does have a developed attraction, then they are usually heterosexual. |
all heterosexuals do not abuse children; almost all homosexuals do not either.
"Julie's World" at: http://data.club.cc.cmu.edu/~julie/antisod.html
Linda Greenhouse, "Justices, 6-3, legalize gay sexual conduct in
sweeping reversal of court's '86 ruling. Cite privacy right. Texas
sodomy law held unconstitutional - Scathing dissent," The New York
Times, 2003-JUN-27, Page A1 & A19
Cox News Service, 1996-JUL-31 reviewing an article by Drs. Henry Adams, Lester Wright
Jr. & Bethany Lohr "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?",
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105 (1996), P. 440-445