TOPEKA, Kan. — In the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot criminalize gay sex between consenting adults — but in Kansas, there remains a law on the books, albeit not enforceable, that LGBT rights activists call offensive and unconstitutional.
That law makes sex between individuals of the same gender a crime in Kansas.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in the state legislature, Thomas Witt, Executive Director of the gay rights advocacy group Kansas Equality Coalition, urged lawmakers to repeal the outdated law, but the committee took no action on the bill.
“It’s an unconstitutional law and it makes no sense to have it on the books,” said Kerry Wilks, Chairperson of the Kansas Equality Coalition. “It has mattered to some people, and just the fact that it’s on the books should be enough.”
On January 20, 2012, Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback released his list of 51 “out of date, unreasonable, and burdensome” laws to be repealed — missing from that list was the unconstitutional law banning same-sex relationships.
“We are angry and disappointed that Governor Brownback has failed to keep his promise to repeal laws that are unreasonable. There is nothing more unreasonable than Sam Brownback’s preserving an unconstitutional law that’s used by government officials to harass gay and lesbian Kansans,” said Thomas Witt, spokesperson for the Kansas Equality Coalition.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that being gay or lesbian is not a crime, and Brownback’s announcement is a gross act of disrespect to our nation’s Constitution, and to the thousands of gay and lesbian Kansans singled out by this unjust law,” Witt said.
Upon taking office in 2011, Governor Brownback had made repealing unreasonable, out-of-date laws a top priority for his administration.
Wilks said anger is growing in the gay community that the bill did not make it onto the repealer’s list.
“It’s telling someone that who they are is wrong, and that’s not right,” she said.