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 issue.”

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 said.

Speaking at the festival was a first for Ray, who ministers at the Community Christian Church of Springfield.

“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 Missouri's constitution.

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 behavior.

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.