The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals struck down the state's sodomy ban in a unanimous ruling on Monday, the Associated Press reported.
Alabama was one of 12 states that classified consensual gay sex as a felony before the ruling, which followed a similar 2003 ruling by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas. The high court ruled at the time that Texas' ban was unconstitutional, and that the state "cannot demean [residents'] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."
The case, the first challenge to Alabama's law since the Lawrence ruling, arrived before the appeals court when prosecutors sought a first-degree sodomy conviction against the defendant, Dewayne Williams. Williams was convicted of sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor, in 2010 following what he described as a consensual act.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported that civil rights groups were quick to praise the ruling, with Equality Alabama president Ben Cooper saying in a statement that the Supreme Court's ruling settled the issue "years ago."
"Each and every person, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, is entitled to equal protection under the law," Cooper's statement read. "The Alabama court's unanimous decision overturning the statute is a step in the right direction and makes us optimistic for future and ongoing equal rights through the continued elimination of unconstitutional provisions in our state's constitution that violate privacy and equal protections."
[Image: "A happy gay couple outdoors," via Shutterstock]