10 years after Lawrence, bill seeks to repeal unconstitutional sodomy law

Posted on 13 Feb 2013 at 4:13pm
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Sen. Jose Rodriguez

Texas State Sen. José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, has filed SB 538 to repeal §21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, which lists “homosexual conduct” as a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $500 fine.

This section of the Texas Penal Code was ruled unconstitutional almost 10 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2003 decision, Lawrence v. Texas.

The bill would also amend the Health and Safety Code to delete the statement that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under §21.06 of the Penal Code.

Although unenforceable and unconstitutional, the state of Texas has refused to remove §21.06 from the books. This law has been misused by untrained law enforcement officials to mistreat and harass Texas citizens.

“There is absolutely no justification for this antiquated and unconstitutional provision to remain on the books,” said Chuck Smith, executive director at Equality Texas. “It is past time for this relic of the past to be repealed from the Texas Penal Code.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House next week. He has been introducing legislation to repeal the sodomy ban since 2005, the first session after the Lawrence decision. In the last session, the bill got a committee hearing but died before making it to the floor.

Rodriguez also recently filed a resolution to repeal Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This marks the first time a bill to repeal the sodomy ban has been introduced in the Senate.

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