Sex Laws and Inconsistent Conservatives

You might not have heard, but on June 26, 2003, the United States Supreme Court struck down a sodomy law in Texas (read about that here). For those with a more limited vocabulary, sodomy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “Any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality.” If you need help with any other words, visit

A number of states currently have laws regarding sodomy—Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri all outlaw sodomy between members of the same sex, while Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and—surprise—Virginia all outlaw sodomy for everybody. Needless to say, these laws generally go unenforced as sodomy presumably occurs mostly in bedrooms (not generally known as bastions of law enforcement).

I won’t get into the details of the specific case in Texas—you can read all about it at the provided link—but the Supreme Court shut down the Lone Star State’s law, and quite possibly some or all of the similar laws across the country as well. This, of course, has pissed off the more conservative thinkers—generally Republicans—who are all for the legal prohibition of anything homosexual.

The conservative thinkers are completely wrong on this issue.

I’m generally a conservative thinker. I like the idea of a limited government, I figure that in general people ought to take care of themselves and be responsible for their own actions and the consequences of them. This is what conservative politics is all about, and the very thought that these people think that government should be regulating people’s sexual activity is repulsive to me. The Republicans are the party of personal freedom, of limited government, and yet they think the heavy hand of the law belongs in your bedroom? There’s a logic for you. That makes about as much sense as calling yourselves “pro-life” and then avidly supporting the death penalty. I’d be a lot more likely to consider myself a Republican if they would think these couple of issues through.

Anyway, I will come clean right now: I believe that homosexuality is a sin. Based on my own personal religious and ethical beliefs, I believe that men belong with women and women belong with men. But there are lots of things I think are sins. I think that abusing alcohol is a sin. I think that gambling is a sin. But I have friends who drink a bit much on occasion, some of the people I really respect go out and buy lottery tickets, and—likewise—I have befriended people who are openly (and sometimes not-so-openly) gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Heck, a boss in one of my previous jobs was homosexual and I consider him to be one of the most friendly and most respectable bosses I’ve ever had.

In other words, while I believe homosexuality is a sin I have never discriminated against somebody who has chosen (or, as some believe, just happen to have) a homosexual lifestyle.

I recognize that while I am free to think whatever I like about homosexuality, I do NOT have the right to impose my personal ethical beliefs on anybody else. I have a right to express my views, to make a persuasive argument, but I can’t force—nor do I desire to force—anybody to change their behavior because I disagree with it. Attempts to make laws that deal with sex—whether they be sodomy laws or any other kind of sex law—are nothing short of a despicable attempt by conservative lawmakers to force their set of morals on a diverse population. That very act is immoral in and of itself.

I don’t like the idea of homosexual sodomy, but however sick I may think that is it is not half as sick as a government that legislates sex lives or imposes morality on its people.

Within reason, the government does have a right to write laws that have to do with sex. Laws against rape and incest and—within reason—statutory rape are a good thing. But some laws sweep far beyond the logical limit of government. Virginia is particularly bad in this respect, an entire section of the Code of Virginia (§18.2 Chapter 8) is entitled “Crimes Involving Morals and Decency.”

Among the notable Virginia laws buried in Chapter 8, it’s illegal to work on Sunday (§18.2-341)—there’s an exception though if your county passes an ordinance to the contrary (§18.2-342) or if you consider Saturday to be the sabbath (§18.2-343). If you are married and have sex with somebody who you aren’t married to, you’re guilty of fornication (§18.2-345) and, while you’re at it, adultery (§18.2-365). Be careful if you live with somebody you aren’t married to “lewdly and lasciviously,” that’s illegal too (§18.2-345). You can’t live in a “bawdy place” (§18.2-347). You can’t do, make, or own anything obscene—and of course, obscenity is defined as anything that “has as its dominant theme or purpose an appeal to the prurient interest in sex” (§18.2-372).

Do you catch my drift?

These are things that are between the involved parties, and provided that everything is consensual there is no reason that it should be illegal. You and I don’t have to like these things. I’ve established that I disagree with homosexuality, I also disagree with most of the things that are outlawed here in Virginia. But I cannot believe nor understand why legislators and governors in my home state thought it was in the best interest of Virginia to make their personal ethical views about sex and behavior the letter of the law. Extramarital sex should not be illegal. Sodomy should not be illegal. Living with somebody “lewdly and lasciviously” should not be illegal. These things may be immoral, distasteful, or otherwise bad; but they are firmly outside the proper realm of governmental authority.

With this recent Supreme Court ruling, maybe we’ll see the number of overreaching laws which attempt to impose ethics upon the population begin to diminish. As it stands today many of these laws are essentially unenforceable and therefore unenforced, but their existence is an affront to very values at the heart of conservatism—limited government and personal freedom. What happens in your or my bedroom (or whatever other private place) between consenting individuals is not the business of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Texas, or any other governmental authority in the United States.

So I’m tired of hearing all these Republicans whine about the overturning of the Texas sodomy law, and then turn around to talk about how people should have personal freedom. I’m tired of these so-called conservatives talking about how it’s the government’s job to legislate morality in the bedroom. You are either a limited-government Republican who thinks states should keep their claws out of everybody’s personal lives, or you’re not—stop trying to have it both ways.

The Supreme Court was right. I’ll use my own moral and ethical judgment to determine what I do, I don’t need Virginia’s §18.2 Chapter 8 to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong. Texans don’t need their precious sodomy law to tell them what they can and can’t do in their homes either. Unlike many conservatives, I intend to practice what I preach. I intend to adhere to the values of conservatism—those pesky values of personal freedom and limited government—even if some use that freedom to do things that I consider to be unethical. If we don’t allow people that choice—the freedom to control the most intimate, personal parts of their lives—then what was the point of building an entire nation on choice and freedom?

There’s something to think about . . .

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.