In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that states can no longer criminalize being gay. Agreeing with the majority ruling, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “A law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state’s moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause, under any standard of review.”
Eight years later, because of Kansas's unconstitutional sodomy law, our relationship is still a crime.
As an HR professional, community leader, and volunteer, I have dedicated my life to helping Kansans in need. But despite my commitment to the community I love, my state has continued to undermine and denigrate my relationship, labeling it criminal.
In 2010, Governor Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer in an effort to get rid of “unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, onerous or conflicting law, regulation or other governing instrument, detrimental to the economic well-being of Kansas.” Now I'm calling on the Office of the Repealer to do just that.
Some say it doesn't matter if the law stays on the books because it's unenforceable. But history proves otherwise. In 2008, Nelson Sloan and Ryan Flynn were arrested by the Raleigh Police Department under North Carolina's sodomy law. The charge is considered a Class I felony in that state, and carried a punishment of up to two years in prison. When the Raleigh police captain was asked why his department arrested the men, knowing the law was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, he answered, "The law is still on the books."
The Kansas sodomy law doesn't just criminalize my relationship, but undermines our state's economic recovery. In order for our economy to grow, Kansas must be aggressively competitive in attracting business.
American businesses have already acknowledged the importance of gay and lesbian workers. According to a recent study by UCLA's Williams Institute, in 2009, 87% of Fortune 500 companies cover sex-orientations in their non-discrimination policy. All but two (96%) of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies do the same.
And when companies adopt workplace policies for their lesbian and gay employees, the most frequently mentioned economic benefits are recruitment and retention of the best talent. Provost Robert Holub of the University of Tennessee -- one of the 50 largest federal contractors -- spoke as to why the university decided to pass inclusive policies, “We fool ourselves if we believe that the absence of a direct statement regarding discrimination against gays and lesbians does not harm our institution…We are probably hurt not only by gay and lesbian candidates preferring to go elsewhere, but by heterosexuals who are as horrified as I am that we will not pledge to treat gay and lesbian applicants without prejudice.”
Being economically competitive also means retaining a talented workforce. But as the law currently stands, young LGBT high school and college graduates are being told by the state of Kansas that their relationships are criminal. Don't they deserve better -- particularly as young people struggle with profuse bullying in our schools?
The Kansas sodomy law hinders Kansas’ ability to be competitive economically. It also undermines and criminalizes relationships and demoralizes young gays and lesbians across the state.
It should be repealed immediately.