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History: Religious Background
From its inception in both Jewish and Christian faiths have applied austere standards with a strict discipline to its followers who violated its injunctions against the major sins of idolarty the sheeding of blood and fornication, which includes bestailtiy.
Bestiality is a sin because of the belief that humans are distinct from animals, because humans alone are made in God's image with an immoral soul with inherent dignity.
The Old Testament lays out the reasoning for why is a sin or crime in multiple verses shown below:
- Deuteronomy 27:21 "Cursed is anyone who has sexual relations with any animal."
- Exodus 22:19 "Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death."
- Levitcus 20:15-16 "If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal. If a woman appraches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animals. They are to be put to death, their blood will be on their own heads."
There are three principles that stem from the verses above:
- Rupture of the natural order comes from Leviticus 19:19 which states “Keep my decrees, ‘Do not mate [with] different kinds of animals.” Under the natural order God created since the beginning when He created the world, it is believed humans were made in the image of God, with a soul and unlike other animals humans are higher on the hierarchical scale.
- Violation of the procreative intent stems from the Christian rule, especially in Orthodox Catholic practice, that procreation is the sole purpose of intercourse. Just as Orthodox Catholics do not believe in using contraceptives, bestiality is condemned because it violates this rule. This belief comes from the interpretation of the story of Onan, the second born son of Judah and Shua, in Genesis 38. Judah’s first-born son Er was married to a woman named Tamar, but due to Er’s wickedness God struck Er down to his death. Then, Judah, Onan’s father, told Onan to sleep with Tamar, to “fulfill [his] duty to her as brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” However, Onan knew the child would not be his and instead of following the order given to him, he “spilled his semen on the ground to keep him from providing an offspring for his brother.” Because Onan disobeyed his father’s order God struck Onan down for is wickedness. Onan’s story has been interpreted that anything such as contraceptives or bestiality is condemned because it violates the procreative intent rule.
- Monstrous offspring will result from the act of engaging in sexual contact or sexual conduct with an animal. The belief is that bestiality creates a monstrous offspring. “Monstrous progeny were a visible reminder of how evil it was to transgress the God-given boundaries separating men from beasts.” “Bestiality is detestable and abominable sin amongst Christians not to be named, committed carnal knowledge against the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of nature by mankind or with brut breast or by woman kind with brut beast.”
Bestiality was first considered a capital offense in England and the American Colonies in 1533.
History: Legal Background
Photo from Peter Pham at Flickr (changes made)
how decriminalizing sodomy, decriminalized beastiality
The original purpose of sodomy laws was to protect “public morals and decency” as it was listed along with bigamy, adultery, obscene literature, incest, and public indecency and these laws were used to protect women, “weak men" and children against sexual assault. If you look at court records from the nineteenth century which reveals these laws were used to prosecute non-consensual activity, but consenting adults engaging in sodomy within the privacy of their homes were immune from prosecution.
However, in the twentieth century everything changed; city and state governments apprehended supposed criminals in response to "public outcry against indecency, sexual solicitation in the nation’s cities, and the predation and molestation of minors." This generated criticism from highly influential legal authorities such as the American Law Institute—an organization responsible for drafting Model Penal Code (MPC), often adopted in part or in its entirety by state legislators in developing criminal laws and several other state commissions argued for decriminalization of private sodomy between consenting adults. In the 1960s and 1970s the Supreme Court held that under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment," there exists a right to privacy that prevents states from 'interfer[ing] with people’s control of their own bodies, disrupt[ing] personal relationships, and intrud[ing] into the innermost sanctum of the home, the bedroom.'"
In 1986 the Supreme Court decided the case of Bowers v. Hardwick. In 1982, a 29-year-old gay man named Michael Hardwick, a bartender in a gay bar in Atlanta, Georgia, as he was leaving the bar one night, he threw a beer bottle into a trash can in front of the establishment. A police officer observed this and cited Hardwick for drinking in public despite Hardwick’s protestation against the charge. Then the Officer inadvertently wrote down the wrong court date on the summons, causing an arrest warrant to be issued Eventually, Torick found Hardwick in his unlocked apartment engaged in oral sex with another man.
Both men were arrested and charged with violating Georgia’s sodomy law, Georgia Annotated Code section 16-6-2, which stated “a person commits the offense of sodomy when he performs or submits to any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth and anus of another” and “a person convicted of the offense of sodomy shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than 20 years.” Hardwick challenged the Georgia sodomy law, which was dismissed without a trial by a federal district court, but, on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit of US Court of Appeals looked to the reasoning of those cases during the 1960s and 1970s where US Supreme Court had found and refined a fundamental right to privacy. The Court of found that Georgia's sodomy statute violated Hardwick’s fundamental right to privacy of consensual private sexual acts. “[P]rivate and intimate association that is beyond the reach of state regulation by reason of the Ninth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." However, Georgia’s Attorney General disagreed with Eleventh Circuit's ruling because other federal circuit courts of appeals had upheld the constitutionality of similar state statutes, and he petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case.
The Supreme Court held that no, the US Constitution does not give a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy invalidating the laws of many States makes the conduct illegal. The court reasoned that fundamental liberties under the Constitution are “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” such that “neither liberty nor justice would exist if [they] were sacrificed” and that these liberties could be characterized as “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” . Here, the court stated that “... neither of these formalities would extend a fundamental right to homosexuals to engage in acts of consensual sodomy” supporting this with the reasoning States had sodomy laws in place since the founding of the United States, and, therefore, there is no right that to be found in tradition or history. The court upheld and deemed Georgia's sodomy law constitutional.
Then the 1990s in the wake of Lawrence v. Texas, where the Supreme Court deemed Texas' sodomy law unconstitutional. Which meant that all sodomy laws within the United States were unconstitutional. when sodomy was decriminalized so was bestiality until aa couple of huge cases in the United States made international headlines causing bestiality to be re-criminialized