Sodom Do 

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Say what you will about Utah’s antiquated sodomy laws, at least they prompt Utah Eagle Forum head Gayle Ruzicka to enlist the word “semen” in their defense.

“Anytime you put semen into those cavities of the body not made to receive the semen, you have a much higher chance of disease and infection. So there’s a very good health reason why those acts should remain illegal,” Ruzicka told this paper two years ago.

From the ancient biblical city of its namesake to the corridors of power in modern America, nothing strikes fear into the hearts of people everywhere quite like sodomy, those sexual acts that involve something other than the direct contact of a pair of genitals, hopefully those of the opposite sex. Anything else besides the simple missionary position sets off apocalyptic visions. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia warned in his dissenting opinion of Lawrence v. Texas that his fellow judges had “taken sides in the culture war.” That’s pretty belligerent language when talking about sex in America’s consensual bedrooms. Scalia no doubt stews in his tortured thoughts that somewhere, somehow a whole lot of people are having more fun than he is.

Sex is rarely a comfortable topic for public conversation. Remember the sheer terror you felt at even the possibility that you might hear your own parents going at it? Nevertheless, a staunch contingent of us insist that the state keep its powers over the bedroom door in reserve because ... well, just because.

Sodomy isn’t altogether illegal in Utah. In 1977, our enlightened Legislature made it legal for married couples. You want pleasure? Commit to marriage and it can be legally, rightfully yours. Single people and gays can revel in breaking the law which, let’s be honest, adds excitement to an already exciting act.

Alone in the crusade to scratch this so-called “law” is local civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, a man faced with the unenviable task of escorting a matter of human sexual desire through bureaucratic court proceedings. Barnard also gets to wince at Attorney General Shurtleff’s argument that, while certainly unenforceable, Utah sodomy laws pack a certain “pedagogical value,” as he described in a brief. To paraphrase his brief, grown-ups teach the young about what’s right and wrong. In other words, older folks have taken a spin around Sodom’s city square, didn’t like it one bit, and neither should you. Nice to know, but not terribly helpful in a consumer culture that stresses variety of choice from crackers to credit cards.

Count on an attorney to take the fun out of sex. But don’t count on Utah’s sodomy laws biting the dust anytime soon, even if they’ve been effectively invalidated by Lawrence v. Texas. Our Legislature will never let go of any tool that lets them beat up on gays and lesbians. Meantime, expect Barnard to forge ahead with his obvious legal argument that the state has no business sniffing between your sheets. Problem is, Barnard has had a dickens of time persuading the court that his client, one unmarried heterosexual D. Berg, has suffered sufficient enough harm from the law to present a case. Of course, it’s doubtful the state could persuade D. Berg or anyone else that they’ve suffered harm while practicing consensual sodomy.

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