Five Republican lawmakers voted against repealing Maryland’s defunct sodomy law

Republican lawmakers Mark N. Fisher, Nino Mangione, Warren E. Miller, William J. Wivell and Robert B. Long

Maryland’s House has voted to repeal the state’s long-defunct sodomy law, but five Republican lawmakers voted against doing so.

The Maryland House of Delegates voted on February 20 to repeal the state’s sodomy law, which punished sex “against the order of nature” with up to ten years in prison.

The unenforceable law has remained on the books for nearly two decades, despite a 2003 ruling from the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas struck down laws criminalising gay relationships.

Five Republicans voted to keep sodomy law

The House voted by 133 to 5 in favour of HB0081, officially titled the Criminal Law – Sodomy and Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practice Repeal bill, to repeal the bill.

The five Republicans who voted to keep the law are Mark N. Fisher, Robert B. Long, Nino Mangione, Warren E. Miller and William J. Wivell.

PinkNews has requested comment from the lawmakers.

The Maryland House of Delegates

The Maryland House of Delegates (Public Domain photo Irteagle102704)

The Washington Blade notes that the sodomy law had commonly been used in cases of same-sex sexual assault, as the state’s existing laws were written to apply only to heterosexual people. The repeal bill revises the state’s sexual assault laws to include all assaults irrespective of gender.

As sodomy laws criminalise sex “against the order of nature” and do not distinguish between consenting and non-consenting sex, it is hard to track how many times the defunct law has been used to target LGBT+ people for consensual relationships.

Sodomy law ‘used to discriminate’

But the ACLU of Maryland said: “While they may seem like antiquated laws that technically still exist but are not actually enforced, these laws have been frequently used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

“As long as Maryland’s law is on the books, it will continue to endanger LGBTQ people, and leave them vulnerable to employment discrimination, unfair attacks in child custody cases, and being labeled as criminal.

“States across the country have been repealing their sodomy laws since 1961. It is time for Maryland to join them, and live up to our state nickname, ‘The Free State’.”

Maryland is not the only state to still have a sodomy law on the books, with 16 US states maintaining laws banning gay sex.

Sodomy laws remain on the books Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina.