Editor's Note: Guest blogger Ella Moss is freelance writer who has a special interest in business, finance and law writing. She spent her formative years training to be a lawyer, but when family life beckoned she decided to put her energies into bringing her two children up and turned her thoughts to penning articles on the topics she knows most about instead.
President Vladimir Putin's Russia took a lot of heat for its regressive, homophobic legislation that came under the magnifying glass of Western media during the Sochi Winter Games, but fewer people realize that anti-gay laws similar to those in Russia remain in force in many American states, as well as in other western and otherwise democratic countries.
While a growing number of states are recognizing same-sex marriages, in some jurisdictions blatant homophobia remains enshrined in the laws of the land. Even basic freedoms cherished by all Americans, such as the right to assembly and free speech, are challenged -- all under the guise of protecting "traditional values."
The Tradition of Homophobic Anti-Propaganda Laws
Eight states still have what are widely known as "anti-propaganda" laws, which prohibit LGBT rights activists and educators from reaching out to youth and young adults who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender and providing them with the information and support they need as they share this aspect of their identity with family and friends.
Texas and Alabama have the most strident anti-propaganda laws, which go as far as to dictate to teachers that they must not attempt to portray same-gender relationships in a positive light in classroom discussions or on school grounds. Some counties go even further, requiring teachers to actively cast same-sex relationships in a negative manner to their students.
Lingering Sodomy Laws and New Anti-Gay Bills
While the U.S. Supreme Court deemed sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003 in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, 10 states have yet to repeal these laws, even though it would now be next to impossible to actually enforce them. Texas and Kansas, however, have managed to go further in maintaining shockingly regressive legislation that effectively renders all homosexual contact illegal.
Kansas, in particular, made headlines this year when the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have allowed any business -- including local restaurants, pubs and hotels -- to refuse service to gay couples. Equally troubling was the element of the bill that would have permitted employers from dismissing openly gay, lesbian or bisexual employees on account of their sexual orientation.
Kansas's Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the discriminatory and extremist bill under the guise of "religious liberty" and did so as a reaction to the states that had chosen to legalize marriage equality in recent months. LGBT activists pointed out that the bill not only discriminated gay couples, but against all LGBT people, regardless of their civil status, and would have also allowed employers to use conjecture and perception when firing employees.
In the ultimate Orwellian twist, Republican state representative Charles Macheers declared that the anti-gay bill actually aimed to reduce the possibility of discrimination, although in this case against anti-gay religious groups and churches. Kansas certainly has its fair share of these groups, including the infamously hateful Westboro Baptist Church. Fortunately, however, the Kansas State Senate rejected the odious anti-gay bill, much to the chagrin of anti-gay conservatives.
Bizarre, Outdated and Regressive Laws Abound
While anti-gay laws enacted a century ago remain enshrined in legislation even when they are no longer enforceable, primarily for political purposes and to appease conservatives who feel threatened by marriage equality, there are dozens of other equally bizarre laws that remain in place in a wide range of states.
Kentucky and Ohio, for instance, have yet to rescind seemingly nonsensical laws that restrict the consumption of ice cream on Sundays (hence the creation of the term "ice cream sundae") or ones that make it illegal to "conceal" one's favorite sorbet as contraband.
Things can get even more legislatively eccentric than this. Some towns, for example, have yet to rescind laws restricting how many baths residents can take during winter months, while women in one Tennessee town are prohibited from proposing to men.
Further north, one Canadian municipality decided to pass a law prohibiting the stoning of women, even though this clearly never posed a serious threat. What this particular legislation has in common with American anti-gay laws, however, is that it was born out of fear and prejudice, in this case against Muslim immigrants.
Sometimes absurd laws remain in force simply because local legislators have all but forgotten about them, or do not see the need to rescind them, as enforcement is clearly impossible. In other cases, however, politicians refuse to withdraw outdated and discriminatory laws out of defiance against the changing times and the newfound surge in acceptance of demographic groups that had suffered acute discrimination.
As marriage equality is accepted in a growing number of states, ultra-conservative legislators will likely try to cling to the vestiges of an era where legislation and widespread prejudice forced gays and lesbians to live in silence and secrecy.