Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lebanon Suddenly Became More Gay-Friendly than 14 US states

by Nomad

Despite its myriad problems, (such as marketplace suicide bombings, factional divisions and refugees), the Middle-Eastern nation of Lebanon appears to be more progressive when it comes to equality rights for its gay minority than, say, Texas or Oklahoma.

According to Victoria Kim writing for PolicyMic:
LGBT rights activists in Lebanon are celebrating a historic ruling that reversed the criminalization of gay sex in Lebanon.
The recent case was highlighted a quarterly magazine called Legal Agenda, published by an NGO of the same name.
Judge Naji El Dahdah, of Jdeide Court, Beirut, threw out the case, in which the Lebanese state accused a transgender woman of having a same-sex relationship with a man, on January 28. The verdict relied on a December 2009 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman that consensual homosexual relations were not "against nature" and could therefore not be prosecuted under article 534 of Lebanon's penal code, which prohibits sexual relations that are "contradicting the laws of nature," and makes them punishable by up to a year in prison. "Man is part of nature and is one of its elements, so it cannot be said that any one of his practices or any one of his behaviors goes against nature, even if it is criminal behavior, because it is nature's ruling," Suleiman said.
This latest development comes after what some saw as last years' crackdown of a very discreet underground gay scene.

Compare that to the states in the US that  still have anti-sodomy laws on their books. Despite a 2003 Supreme Court decision  to invalidate an earlier ruling in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, fourteen states have yet to abolish the laws. The Supreme Court ruled that this private sexual conduct is protected by the liberty rights implicit in the due process clause of the United States Constitution. 

And yet, Alabama,  Florida, Idaho,  Kansas,  Louisiana,  Michigan,  Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia all have retained the unconstitutional laws. While these states have no way to enforce the laws, they have also not been repealed at a state level. Although obsolete, the laws have been used have been used to stop gay Americans from adopting and fostering children and gaining custody of their own kids.
The "trick" has always been finding a means to limit the meaning of sodomy in such a way so as to target homosexuals only. (And then only male homosexuals. Lesbian couples appear to have veritable cart blanche.)

Sodomy is,  after all  a very broad term; it could mean anything from bestiality to merely non-procreative sex. That would include oral and anal sex and masturbation. (Technically, it could- in a stretch- also include any couple using birth control.) 
That would mean a lot of heterosexuals would be considered potential criminals. According to one recent study:
About 90 percent of men and 89 percent of women had had heterosexual oral sex, and 44 percent of men and 36 percent of women had had anal sex with an opposite-sex partner.
That's a hell of a lot of  people to keep in solitary confinement. (Where else could you lock them up?)

Four states- Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas- didn't worry about the niceties of the Supreme Court rulings, the US Constitution or obvious discrimination against homosexual adults. These states still have laws specifically outlawing consensual sex between gay Americans. 
"Conservatives in those states know they can't enforce the laws, but by keeping them in the code, they can send a message that homosexuality is officially condemned by the government."
As Carlos Maza in an article for Equality Matters points out that "the presence of sodomy laws can cause gays and lesbians to be dragged into humiliating, costly, and discriminatory legal disputes." 
Unfair and obsolete laws have their uses. The very existence of the anti-gay laws may be enough to intimidate, or to cause a chilling effect in your average closeted gay citizen. Such laws could even be used to blackmail anybody who wishes to keep their anonymity.  

Maza cites a 2008 case where two North Carolina men were arrested by the Raleigh Police Department for having consensual sex. Although constitutionally they were innocent, and the charges were later dropped, one of the men said the "awful" ordeal "humiliated" him. The police captain in charge of the department at the time maintained that even though the Supreme Court had ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional, "The law is still on the book... What the D.A.'s office will do with it, I don't know."

As the challenges mount against state same-sex marriage bans, it reveals a glaring paradox. Soon gay couples in Texas or Oklahoma and Utah will be allowed to marry, but because of these unenforceable and unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws, they will not legally be able to consummate their marriage on their honeymoon.