Monday, February 25, 2008

First Annual Do-As-You-Feel festival

Hadn't really paid much attention to that Texas sex toy case (the one that about overturning that ridiculous Texan law that says that you can't buy "dildos", but can buy "personal massagers" and "educational tools"), but the fact that the law was overturned has a huge, huge impact on American society I hadn't considered:

The Texas sex toy case makes it clear that the Lawrence v. Texas ruling established a constitutional right to sexual privacy in the United States.

And that, people, is HUGE.

Before the Texas sex toy case, we didn’t have that. You might have had it in the particular state you lived in — we’ve had it in California since 1975, when the consenting adults law got passed — but United States citizens did not have any constitutionally guaranteed right to sexual privacy until February 12, 2008.

And we have it now. Yes, the Federal courts have now said that you have a constitutional right to use a vibrator or a dildo. But so much more than that: the Federal courts have now said . . . well, let me quote briefly from the decision.

Just as in Lawrence, the State here wants to use its laws to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct. The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the State is morally opposed to a certain type of consensual private intimate conduct. This is an insufficient justification for the statute after Lawrence. (Emphasis mine.)

The Lawrence case didn’t just say that gay sex couldn’t be criminalized. It said that people — all people — have the right to engage in any consensual intimate conduct in their home, free from government intrusion. It said that people’s sex lives are not their neighbors’ business, not society’s business, and most emphatically not the government’s business. It said that the fact that the State doesn’t happen to like a particular kind of sex doesn’t mean they have a right to ban it, or indeed to have any say in it at all.

This case says, “Yup. That’s what Lawrence meant, all right.”

And that has enormous implications. (Assuming it gets upheld, of course; the decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court, and I haven’t read anything yet saying whether or not it will be.)

It has implications for sadomasochists. Fetishists. Swingers. Any other sexual minority you can think of. If you’re any of those things . . . you now have a legal right to it, anywhere in the country. And that’s pretty darned important for all those custody rights and housing rights and employment rights and whatnot that we were talking about. It may wind up having implications for porn laws; if we our right to sexual privacy means we can have vibrators, it should mean we have a right to dirty movies as well. (It should have implications for the legalization of sex work, too; but alas, the rulings in both Lawrence and this case made a point of saying that the rulings don’t apply to prostitution. Mistakenly, in my opinion.)

So here’s the lesson for today. Apart from just, “Hooray for sex toys!” and “Hooray for the right to sexual privacy!”

The lesson for today: Gay rights are human rights.

Bolding's mine. Comments are from Greta Christina's entry at "The Blowfish Blog", which may be considered NWS if there's excessive prudishness at the helm of your webfilter. Not much I can add to the bolded bit, except to say that this may have a big impact on American politics that goes far beyond being able to sell vibrators in Texas that actually look like male members.

See, if Lawrence really does mean that most sexually-motivated legislating is off the table, a lot of conservative tactics are as well. Yes, they can rail against the "activist judges", but they can't put any policy forward that supports this point of view, which means they can't run on said policy. Even running on the "activist judges" thing wouldn't necessarily help, because it's just going to get lumped into the whole big anti-abortion anti-sexual rights omnibus, which will drastically limit it's appeal among--as one example-- the vast majority of women.

It makes it much harder to run on "culture war" stuff, which means that Republicans are going to have to run on governance and economics. And let's face it: they're terrible at those. Without gay-baiting, they're looking at an electoral massacre.

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