Posted by: Catherine Lugg | September 22, 2010

Thinking about Sodomy, again

About 6 years ago, I worked on a research project that looked at the intersection of sodomy laws and licensure for educators (hence the title, “Thinking about Sodomy”). Historically, these laws have been used to criminalize queer identity, which has meant that “out” LGBT people could not hold licensure. The effect has been to push queer educators into the closet lest their/our identities become public–and they/we lose our jobs.

In 2003, the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas ruled that these laws were unconstitutional precisely because they criminalized identity. While most states have pitched their sodomy laws into the dustbin of history, 13 still maintain these laws largely in the name of “upholding traditional morality” (see Lugg, 2006). Since this moral understanding is rooted in very narrow understandings of Christianity, these laws should not pass the 1st Amendment laugh test. But there they are, still on the books, still telling LGBT people of that particular state that “you’re icky, and you are not a real citizen,” and forcing all LGBT people into closets if they/we work and/or learn in public schools.

On Friday, I’m headed to Alexandria, VA, to participate in an AERA workshop on LGBTQ issues in education (see Getting to this point has been akin to doing my own dental surgery–painful and I’m not sure I’m the better for all of the effort. Organizationally, AERA is mired in early 1980s notions of identity, research, and what its “proper role” should be as a research organization. Consequently, ABA, AMA, NASW, APA, AHA, etc. continue to zoom far ahead of educational scholars when it comes to queers, our professions, and the role of major organizations. For AERA and the status of queers, high-intensity navel gazing seems to be the order of the day.

So, at this scholarly get-together, one issue I’m going to address is the pernicious influence of sodomy laws on queers in general, and queers in public schools in particular. The mildest framing of this issue is that states with sodomy laws still on the books are engaging in stigmatization of a historically despised minority population. Furthermore, states that still embrace this governmentally-sanctioned stigma should NOT be rewarded for their bigoted behavior. The least AERA could do is STOP spending money in those states that officially hate queers—like Virginia. I really have no desire to be considered a statutory felon (however briefly) for merely doing my job.

Lugg, C.A. (2006, January & March) Thinking about sodomy: Public schools, legal panopticons and queers. Educational Policy, 20, (1-2), 35-58.

From Page 51.

States barring all consensual sodomy

Alabama Misdemeanor Still on the books

Florida Misdemeanor Still on the books

Idaho Felony Still on the books

Louisiana Felony Still on the books

Michigan Felony Still on the books

Mississippi Felony Still on the books

North Carolina Felony Still on the books

South Carolina Felony Still on the books

Utah Misdemeanor Still on the books

Virginia Felony Still on the books

States barring only same-sex consensual sodomy

Kansas Misdemeanor Still on the books

Missouri Misdemeanor Still on the books

Oklahoma Felony Still on the books


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