Brownback has his priorities

It’s not too uncommon for states to launch initiatives intended to eliminate antiquated and unnecessary laws. Over the course of generations, officials and bureaucracies can approve all kinds of measures — most of which go ignored and unenforced by modern policymakers — that are no longer needed.

So, when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) created an “Office of the Repealer” to identify these out-of-date state laws for elimination, the idea wasn’t necessarily misguided. The problem, though, is that antiquated and unnecessary laws can still run into a culture-war agenda.

For gay men and lesbians, there seemed one particularly obvious candidate: Kansas Statute 21-3505.

That would be the “criminal sodomy” statute, which prohibits same-sex couples from engaging in oral or anal sex. The law was rendered unenforceable nearly a decade ago by a United States Supreme Court ruling, but it remains enshrined in the state’s legal code.

But on Friday, when Mr. Brownback, a conservative Republican, released a list of 51 laws to recommend to the Legislature for repeal, the sodomy statute was not among them.

Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition, argued, “This isn’t just some archaic law that’s sitting on the books and isn’t bothering anyone. It’s used as justification to harass and discriminate against people, and it needs to go.”

Brownback knows the law isn’t being enforced. He also knows it’s unconstitutional. But despite the drive to eliminate unnecessary statutes from the books, the far-right governor just can’t bring himself to scrap a pointless and offensive measure.

Apparently, just having the law there makes conservatives feel better, making the anti-sodomy measure something akin to a right-wins security blanket.

When the right’s antipathy towards unnecessary laws runs into the right’s hostility for LGBT rights, it appears the latter still trumps the former.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation