Press Releases

Court rules as unconstitutional same-sex law

By Caryn Rousseau, The Associated Press
Saturday July 06, 2002

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that a law barring sexual relations between people of the same gender was an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. 

The Legislature passed the law in 1977, and it apparently has never been used to prosecute anyone. 

The seven plaintiffs challenged the law, though, because they don’t want their conduct to be considered illegal, according to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented them. 

“We agree that the police power may not be used to enforce a majority morality on persons whose conduct does not harm others,” the court said in the ruling. 

“A fundamental right to privacy is implicit in the Arkansas constitution” and the state has a tradition of protecting that right, the court wrote. 

A judge had ruled in 2001 that the law was unconstitutional, but the state appealed. The attorney general’s office argued the Legislature should be allowed to consider moral judgments when creating laws. 

A dissenting opinion by two justices said the court should not act because there was no criminal case brought under the law. The plaintiffs failed to show an actual threat of prosecution or harm from the law’s existence, the dissent said. 

The law carried a penalty of a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. 

Arkansas was one of six states that criminalized gay and lesbian sexual conduct involving consenting adults. The others are Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.