Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Sodomy Definition:

Synonymous with buggery and referring to unnatural sex acts, including copulation, either between two persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act is known as bestiality).

Related Terms: Buggery, Bestiality, Homosexuality, Zoophilia

The US Code defines sodomy as:

"Any person ... who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense."

Most countries outlaw bestiality but homosexual activity is gradually being decriminalized.

Historically, the law dealt harshly with sodomy.

In ancient Roman law and common law, sodomie est crime de majestie vers le roy celestre: sodomy is high treason against the King of Heaven.

The Visigothic Code provided:

"The doctrine of the orthodox faith requires us to place our censure upon vicious practices, and to restrain those who are addicted to carnal offences. For we counsel well for the benefit of our people and our country, when we take measures to utterly extirpate the crimes of wicked men, and put an end to the evil deeds of vice.

"For this reason we shall attempt to abolish the horrible crime of sodomy, which is as contrary to Divine precept as it is to chastity. And although the authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the censure of earthly laws, alike, prohibit offences of this kind, it is nevertheless necessary to condemn them by a new decree; lest if timely correction be deferred, still greater vices may arise.

"Therefore, we establish by this law, that if any man whosoever, of any age, or race, whether he belongs to the clergy, or to the laity, should be convicted, by competent evidence, of the commission of the crime of sodomy, he shall, by order of the king, or of any judge ... suffer emasculation (castration)."

In 1986, Justice Byron White of the Supreme Court of the United States [Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 US 186] had this to say about "acts of consensual sodomy":

"Proscriptions against that conduct have ancient roots. Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights. In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, all but 5 of the 37 States in the Union had criminal sodomy laws. In fact, until 1961, all 50 States outlawed sodomy, and today, 24 States and the District of Columbia continue to provide criminal penalties for sodomy performed in private and between consenting adults....

"Against this background, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" is, at best, facetious."

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