Clean Up the Law: Protect the Rights of All

by Dan Quinn

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial today says it’s past time for Texas legislators to remove from the law books the state’s sodomy statute, which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2003. Two bills, HB 604 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar and HB 2156 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, would repeal the sodomy statute. They also would strike from state law a requirement that educational materials intended for students younger than 18 years of age, or materials related to sex education and sexually transmitted disease, state that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense.

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee is scheduled to hear public testimony on HB 604 and HB 2156 on April 5. The Texas Freedom Network supports passage of these bills. In addition to cleaning up our penal code and removing discriminatory and unconstitutional language, passage of this legislation would help ensure that Texas students aren’t taught lies in their classrooms. In fact, a 2009 report from the TFN Education Fund found that some abstinence-only programs inaccurately teach students that sodomy is still illegal in Texas.

So why haven’t lawmakers already removed this language from the state’s law books? The Star-Telegram editorial offers one likely reason: “Retaining even an obsolete law lets moralizers keep their viewpoint on the official record.”

Indeed, the religious right so dominates the Texas Republican Party that the state GOP platform demands that the state recriminalize private and consensual sexual relationships of same-sex couples. And sure enough, a prominent far-right Republican legislator told the Austin American-Statesman that repealing the sodomy statute isn’t likely to happen. State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, disingenuously claims lawmakers simply don’t have time to deal with the issue — although they found time to deal with an anti-abortion sonogram bill and another bill promoting anti-abortion license plates. From the Statesman article about the sodomy statute:

“In this particular session, I’d be hesitant to do any changing,” Christian said, adding that the law probably “better reflects the views of a lot of citizens” as it is .

Rep. Christian’s argument exposes the religious right’s contempt for protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans. We agree with the Star-Telegram’s editorial:

“It’s past time for state lawmakers to erase invalid laws whose continuing presence puts political posturing ahead of constitutional principles.”