Friday, May 12, 2006

Illegality [II, 29]

From the mid-fourth century CE to 1791 (when France became to the first country to decriminalize), homosexuality was against the law in every Euro-American jurisdiction. Some laws were aimed at both sexes. Others (as in England) applied to male homosexuality only. Whatever the coverage, those affected were literally outlaws.

This is not the place to offer a history of the sodomy laws. Several terms may be noted, though. Common until recently in American state sodomy laws is the term of art crime against nature. In English law the term buggery is used. In Germany the specific article in the Penal Code, Paragraph 175, became a byword for homosexuality. Spanish-speaking countries sometimes use euphemisms, such as peligrosidad social, social dangerousness.

Despite centuries of disparagement and discrimination under cover of law, gay men and lesbian do not display any overall tendencies to criminality. As Donald Webster Cory observed fifty years ago they are “law-abiding criminals.” In fact homosexual behavior between consenting adults is a victimless crime—which means that in principle it is not a crime at all. Still today sodomy laws survive in many countries of the world. In the United States they were not ended until the early twenty-first century when the United States Supreme Court issued the Lawrence decision striking down the remaining state statutes.

Today in America we see some fascination with the image of crime, if not the reality. Hence current gay black gay slang designates thugz as desirable sexual objects.


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