Last Thursday, India’s supreme court struck down a discriminatory ban on consensual gay sex. It was a monumental victory for LGBTQ+ rights and a testament to decades of courage and perseverance by India’s queer and activist communities.
Like many, I spent the day celebrating the tides of history changing. I opened a bottle of rosé, poured myself a hefty glass and sipped on the sweet taste of a victory that I contributed absolutely nothing to. I was vicariously reveling in a victory earned by my queer siblings abroad. And this victory felt, and tasted, so delicious.
It took about three sips for me to remember an article I wrote for The Daily Tar Heel when I was a first year, way back in early 2016. The article highlighted a concerning contradiction in North Carolina law. Although a 2003 Supreme Court ruling determined laws criminalizing sodomy — anal and oral sex — were unconstitutional, several states, including North Carolina, still had such laws on the books. The Supreme Court ruling made these laws unenforceable but, at the time, state legislators had not removed them. Remembering my article, I feverishly did a quick Google search. Nothing has changed. Anal sex is still considered a “crime against nature” in North Carolina.
The sweet taste of vicarious victory went sour. My stomach sank. Gay sex has effectively been legal in the United States for only 15 years, and even that wasn’t entirely legitimate due to these unenforceable “crime against nature” laws.
Even more upsetting was the realization that, as a gay man living in North Carolina, I was technically breaking this state's law every time I had sex. Although acceptance and tolerance toward LGBTQ+ Americans has grown substantially throughout my lifetime, a majority of that change has been cultural, not legal.