Blotting Out a Shameful Past

Cross-posted from the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, a project of the Courage Campaign

Times were different in 1967. Homosexuality was still listed in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and considered something of an “illness.” So different in fact that the following request was made, in law, of the Department of Mental Health at the time:

plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into the  causes and cures of sexual deviation, including deviations conducive to sex crimes against children, and the causes and cures  of homosexuality, and into methods of identifying potential sex  offenders.

There, listed amongst pedophiles, was our community.  The worst part is that this mess is still on the books of California law.  Hopefully, that will soon change:

Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal figures 43 years is long enough to  try to “cure” homosexuality. So the Long Beach Democrat has  introduced a bill that would strip a section from California’s Welfare and Institutions Code mandating a search for such a cure.

It’s unclear how seriously the department ever heeded the Legislature’s instructions. Department  spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said any research that did go on would  have ended decades ago. But Lowenthal thinks the edict’s mere  existence on the books is odious enough to warrant its demise.

“The  fact this language has survived this long is pretty amazing,” she said  in a news release. “We need to blot it out and make it clear we’re  moving forward as a society, not backward.” (SacBee)

This is just one of the many laws on the books across the nation that has such out of date language.  Despite their unconstitutionality as declared in Lawrence v Texas, there are still sodomy laws on the books of 14 states. Many of which are only applicable to same sex couples.

While many of these laws will never actually be erased from the books, doing so is a worthwhile use of the Legislature’s resources.  It reminds us of the progress we have made, and the challenges as we move forward.