Springfield, Missouri City Council
members agreed last week to repeal a decades-old importuning law
aimed at the gay and lesbian community.
The law made it a crime to sexually
proposition someone of the same gender. With the exception of an
absent councilman, Nick Ibarra, city leaders unanimously approved
repeal of the law on Tuesday, September 8.
The ordinance made it illegal for any
person in a public place to “invite, entice, persuade or to
address” a person of the same sex to commit sodomy. Ordinance
78-224 defines sodomy as “any sexual act involving genitals of one
person and the mouth, tongue, hands or anus of another person.”
Councilman Doug Burlison backed repeal
of the 1976 law.
“I definitely backed the repeal,”
Burlison told On Top Magazine in an email, “in fact, this
would not have been addressed if I had not initially pushed the
Burlison said he first became aware of
the ordinance during the city's Gay Pride festival, Pridefest, when a
local pastor spoke out against the law.
“Dr. Roger Ray took the stage and
made a speech which highlighted and condemned the homosexual
solicitation ordinance that we still had in our city code,” he
Speaking at the festival was a first
for Ray, who ministers at the Community Christian Church of
“The Nazis carried signs which read
'Thank God for HIV' and through a megaphone they shouted 'Death to
gays,'” Ray said in a letter where he recounted his experience.
“The fascist-wannabes form one layer of disgustingly prejudiced
society but when I looked at the larger number of Bible-carrying
critics I was forced to wonder how much difference there really is
between someone shouting that they hope the homosexuals dies of AIDS
or the ones who repeatedly shout warnings that homosexuals would burn
in hell forever – or even, which one is more frighteningly insane?”
Similar laws have been struck down by
state Supreme Courts in recent years, including one in Ohio.
Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer agreed the ordinance violated
Importuning laws often include vague
language that allows broad application. Police officers often use
such laws to entrap mostly gay men and charge them with indecent
Burlison received a number of threats
for his position, which included “threats of lawsuits and future
electoral failure,” but said he was unwavering in his resolve.
“My libertarian background also
equipped me for this particular fight as well,” he said. “In the
end, I also had the support of my colleagues on the council, as was
evidenced by the final vote.”
“Sometimes, things work out all
right,” he added.