The Valley Reacts to Sodomy Ruling

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Friday was National HIV Testing Day and AIDS educator Bruce Taylor is hard at work in front of the Artful Dodger, distributing fliers and testing passers-by. He's also celebrating a victory.

The day before, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law against sodomy, based on the violation of privacy.

Taylor says the ruling may open up the door to other issues like sexual discrimination and same-sex marriages. But most importantly, he says, it will help dismiss any legal fears people might have that prevent them from getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

"Regardless of who we are or who we are attracted to or who we choose as mates in life, I think it's important we're all given equal protection under the law," says Taylor.

Legally, the Supreme Court decision goes beyond the definition of "equal protection." The Court chose a much broader route, that of search and seizure, to declare the sodomy ban unconstitutional.

In Virginia, sodomy among homosexual and heterosexual partners has always been illegal. The state has repeatedly dismissed appeals of that law.

Now that it has been overturned, John Elledge, Legislative Aide to Delegate Glenn Weatherholtz (R - 26th District), says the Valley should be concerned.

"One compelling reason, one that affects the 26th District of Virginia in particular, is the ability to prosecute criminal behavior," Elledge says.

Elledge referred to Harrisonburg's Hillandale Park where twenty people were arrested between 1996-1999 for the conspiracy to commit or solicitation of "deviant sexual acts."

Elledge, like many religious leaders across the nation, is concerned about family values and the morality of American culture.

But lesbian Episcopal priest Cynthia Gilliatt of Harrisonburg's Emmanuel Episcopal Church says the new rule is better for society.

"It makes our society a more civil society and it gives us the space to love each other as Jesus asked us to," Gilliatt says.

Elledge says Virginia's anti-sodomy law still stands until it's challenged and overturned.


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