I completed my BA in Criminal Justice in 2015. Currently working on my MS in Homeland Security Management.
Sodomy typically refers to anal or oral sex, and it was once found to be illegal in the United States for both homosexual and heterosexual couples. This even included acts of sodomy in the privacy of your own home! Imagine this scenario: You're one of two consenting heterosexual adults that are married. You engage in anal sex, someone witnesses the act through your bedroom window, and reports you to the police. Now you're both arrested, and facing jail time. This doesn't seem right, does it?
Let's learn how this situation has changed over the years.
Legally speaking, sodomy is defined by certain sexual acts. This includes anal and oral sex, but bestiality, sex between a human and an animal, can also fall under sodomy. These acts were once considered immoral and illegal for everyone in the U.S., but the main target for punishing sodomy crimes were homosexuals.
Sodomy Laws by State
This section covers the states that still have sodomy laws in place. While forcible sodomy can still lead to charges against the offender, the Lawrence v. Texas (2003) Supreme Court decision (which we'll discuss more below) finds sodomy laws unconstitutional if the act is consensual. The following states, however, have still not removed their sodomy statutes, many of which (but not all) cover more than just consenting sexual acts.
- Section 13A-6-63 (2016), Sodomy in the first degree: This includes when any individual engages in deviant sexual intercourse with someone who does not consent, or who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent. It also includes when someone is over the age of 16 has sexual intercourse with an individual who is under the age of 12. Alabama considers this a Class A felony.
- Section 13A-6-64 (2016), Sodomy in the second degree: This includes any individual who is 16 years of age or older who has sexual intercourse with an individual who is older than 12, but is younger than 16. It also includes when an individual engages in sexual intercourse with another individual who is mentally incapable of giving consent. Alabama considers this a Class B felony.
- Ch 800 Section 2, Unnatural and lascivious act (2016): Any individual who commits these types of acts with another individual, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree. This includes acts of sodomy.
- Ch 800 Section 4 Lewd or lascivious act (2016): This section relates to sodomy by including individuals who encourage or force minors under the age of 16 to participate in acts of sodomy. This is a second degree felony.
- Ch 16-6-2, Sodomy; aggravated sodomy (2016): When any individual forces someone else, against their consent, to engage in acts of sodomy. This could also include committing acts of sodomy against a child of 10 years of age or less. This is considered a felonious act. The section also stipulates that if an individual is under 18 and no more than four years older than their consenting sexual partner, they will be charged with a misdemeanor.
- Ch 66 Section 18-6606, Crimes against nature (2016): This section includes acts of penetration, which can include acts of sodomy. It is a felonious act.
- RS 14:43.3, Oral sexual battery (2016): This is when there is a victim under the age of 15, or is at least three years younger than the offender. This section also includes when the offender is at least 17 years of age and the victim is paralyzed and did not give consent, is mentally incapable of understanding the act and can't give consent, or is 65 years old or older and did not give consent.
- Title 3 3-321, Sodomy (2016): Any individual who is convicted for any act related to sodomy, will be charged with a felony.
- CH 272 section 34, Crimes against nature (2016): Any individual who commits sodomy acts against another individual or animal is considered felonious.
- Ch 272 section 35, Unnatural and lascivious crimes (2016): These acts, which include sodomy, are considered misdemeanors.
- Senate Bill 219 sec 158 (2016): This bill states that any individual who commits a crime, such as sodomy, against a human or an animal will be charged with a felony.
- Unnatural intercourse statute (2016): All individuals who commit a detestable sexual act with a human or an animal will be in violation of this act.
- Ch 14-177, Crimes against nature (2016): If any individual commits anal or oral sex with a human or animal, which is sodomy, they will be charged with a felony.
- Section 5-888 (2016): This law covers forcible sodomy, where the victim does not consent to the act.
- Statute 16-15-120 (2016): Any individual who carries out an act of sodomy against another individual will be charged with a felony.
- Title 76-5-403, Forcible sodomy (2016): Any individual who engages in sexual conduct such as oral and anal sex with an individual 14 years or older has committed a misdemeanor. Forcible sodomy is a felony.
- Title 76-5-403, Sodomy on a child (2016): Sodomy against a child of less than 14 years of age is a felony.
The punishments enforced by these laws, prior to 2003, ranged from one to 15 years in prison and fines.
Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
This Supreme Court case asked whether or not same sex couples could legally engage in same sex sexual conduct.
Police officers had entered the apartment residence of Lawrence, and saw him engaging in a same sex sexual act with another man. The police arrested both Lawrence and his partner, and charged them under the Texas Penal Code 21.06, which stated that it was a crime to engage in sexual conduct with someone of the same sex. Lawrence filed an appeal, and eventually the Texas law was found unconstitutional because it violated the due process clause under the 14th amendment.
This case made all state laws against same sex sodomy and consensual sodomy unconstitutional, but those states mentioned above still have not removed their sodomy laws.
In this lesson you learned the legal definition of sodomy: it includes oral sex and anal sex, and can also cover bestiality. The laws in place for sodomy acts covered heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, whether or not they were married, but enforcement of sodomy laws was mostly focused on homosexual couples, leading to the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas. The 2003 court decision deemed that all consensual sodomy laws that were still in place were unconstitutional due to 14th amendment rights. While the court decision has made sodomy laws unconstitutional, the following states have not actually removed their sodomy laws: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah.
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