Group fights to get homosexual conduct law off books - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Group fights to get homosexual conduct law off books

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You can find it in Chapter 21 of the Texas penal code. It's the chapter that addresses sexual offenses.

Section 21.06 is titled "Homosexual Conduct", which reads that it is a misdemeanor if a person engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.

It was the law of the land for decades, until it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, nearly a decade ago.

"It's there for no other reason than to denigrate and demean lesbian and gay Texans," said Chuck smith, Executive Director for Equality Texas.

Smith says the unconstitutional homosexual conduct law needs to be it erased from the books. He announced this week that Equality Texas is supporting house bill 1701, which was filed Representative Jessica Farrar, a democrat from Houston. A similar measure was also filed in the senate

1701 would remove the unconstitutional language from the Texas penal code.

Smith says because it's still on the books, some still believe it is law.

"There was a recent case in El Paso where a couple was kicked out of a restaurant because they kissed in public and a police officer said that violated the statute. Ultimately this couple sued the city of El Paso. The case was settled but the city had to pay money," he said.

The homosexual conduct law has been in the Texas penal code books since 1973. Now it was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and now ten years later even some conservatives say it's time to take it off the books.

"If it's unconstitutional they should take the measures and time to get it off the books," said Republican strategist and conservative Dan Neil says it's a matter of good housekeeping.

"If you've ever been over to the legislative session, you notice they do a lot of things which I would consider a waste of time. So to think that they couldn't prioritize removing a law from the books that is unconstitutional and should be is hard for me to believe," said Neil.

Neil says regardless of personal beliefs, removing the unconstitutional law off the books is the smart thing to do for Texas.

"It makes fiscal sense to get it off the books so that there is not another situation as in El Paso where there's a law suit and the city pays out for something that shouldn't pay out for just because a legislator didn't take the time to get it off the books," said Neil.

Smith is hoping republican lawmakers will see it the same way.

"Today's mainstream Texas values are to leave gay people alone and to just let them live their lives,” said Smith.

It remains unclear if the bill will receive true bi-partisan support. We attempted to contact several republican lawmakers. None returned our phone calls

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