Anti-gay Idaho sheriff doesn’t know sodomy laws were struck down in 2003

It takes a special kind of stupid to be Idaho.  To wit: the Kootenai County Sheriff who thinks that sodomy is still illegal in Idaho (it’s not), and therefore he’s dropping his department’s sponsorship of the Boy Scouts.

You see, Sheriff Ben Wolfinger explained to the local paper (the local paper also had no clue that the Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws in 2003), that sodomy is illegal in Idaho (it’s not), so he’s compelled to stop supporting the Scouts (he’s not).

“It would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law,” Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said.

Sodomy is against the law in Idaho, he added.

10 year old Scouts in Idaho apparently do a lot of sodomy.

Just to give you a sense of what we’re dealing with, sodomy is (was) punishable by life imprisonment in Idaho.

And that’s another thing.  It’s a sodomy law.  It’s not a sexual orientation law.  Sodomy.  An act.  No one is breaking the law by simply being gay.

So not only is Sheriff Wolfinger wrong about the law’s enforceability, he’s also wrong about what the law actually said.  It didn’t make the gay “lifestyle,” as Wolfinger so lovingly puts it, illegal.  It made sodomy illegal (straight and gay).

But this is Idaho.

Imagine a sheriff who doesn’t even know the law is in his own jurisdiction.  That’s a rather scary thought.  Then again, we are dealing with a state that bans the word “vagina” in classes about human reproduction.

And as for the hypocrisy of trying to enforce a law that hasn’t really existed in ten years, Idaho is famous for its hypocritical conservative values.  It is, after all, the state where conservative lawmakers made it legal for private citizens to bring guns to the state capitol building.  Only to freak out once one of those private citizens finally brought a gun.  Second Amendment NIMBY is alive and well in GOP Idaho.

Of course, the GOP freak out over oral s-e-x isn’t just limited to Idaho.  The GOP’s gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, wants to ban all oral sex too.  (And his running mate isn’t any better.)

And the Republicans wonder why they can’t win national elections any more.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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98 Responses to “Anti-gay Idaho sheriff doesn’t know sodomy laws were struck down in 2003”

  1. PaulOnBooks says:

    Perhaps the sheriff is worried – cf some forces making officers use tasers on each other so they know what it feels like …

  2. mark says:

    louisiana..baton rouge…..maybe the supreme court needs to re issue its ruling? somehow it was overlooked in a lot of places…..

  3. JayRandal says:

    Wow this is way old news now eli. You are also M.B. too? Never boost about yourself as brilliant because you most likely are not. I am sure Idaho has
    pretty scenery but I dislike states that are extreme far-right like yours. I was born and raised in California. Lived in Oregon and Washington for awhile. I have been To Utah numerous times but never to Idaho. Glad to hear your home town bans discrimination against Gays but be honest Idaho will most likely never allow Gay marriage there. Probably not Georgia where I live presently. Good luck to you and get over this past subject on Americablog.

  4. eli says:

    The largest town in Kootenai County has over 30,000 people, a Gay-Straight Alliance in both the college and local high school, a human rights organization, and a predominantly gay bar. Gay people do NOT get arrested just for being gay in the area. The city recently passed a nondiscrimination policy for LGBT people.

  5. eli says:

    I’m a graduate student from Idaho. I had a 3.98 GPA as an undergraduate while studying math and economics. I’m not an uneducated dunce. The sheriff is moron but he doesn’t speak for me. I disagree vehemently with his actions, as do nearly all my friends (Democrats and Republicans alike). Idaho is made up of over a million people. It’s incredibly poor logic to believe that an entire state shares the views of one county’s sheriff. By the way, my hometown was voted “Most Beautiful Small Town in America”. It’s a beautiful place to vacation and was one of the first towns in Idaho to ban discrimination of LGBT people. Too bad your prejudice will prevent you from visiting it.

  6. eli says:

    He wasn’t defending the bigot- he was saying not to judge an entire state because of one bigot. I’m from Idaho. A lot of my LGBT friends are from Idaho. We are not bigots. That sheriff is a moron and does NOT represent my views.

  7. Jess says:

    Jeez, who mashed his potatoes?

  8. Jess says:

    It’s funny when you think about it, you’d think they’d want to keep the Sodom and Gomorrah business hush-hush; that a man should ‘nobly’ offer his Virgin daughters to the mercy of an angry mob to be raped in lieu of his guests seems antiquated and arbitrary at best. I guess they just brush past that little fun fact and dub it as “neighborly virtue”. And for a concerned woman to be turned into a pillar of salt for a solicitous gaze at her ravaged home and community seems a bit excessive imo. Oh well, they have their tenets I have mine.

  9. BeccaM says:

    That’s really awful… nobody should have to put up with that. I can entirely understand your nervousness.

  10. Jim Olson says:

    Marion County, Florida is another such place. Unfortunately, that is where my parents have built their retirement home. Makes me nervous just to visit. I don’t go out at night, and I don’t let my black husband drive while we’re there. We’ve been followed in stores, and clerks and waiters have been rude to us. My dear sweet innocent parents don’t see it, or don’t get it, and think they’ve moved to Mayberry.

  11. Jim Olson says:


  12. mike31c says:

    Because I am not ignorant nor am I a bigot like this fool from Idaho. If you are defending this bigot, then I feel sorry for you.

  13. M.B. says:

    What’s truly sad is how easily you’ve stooped to his level. Please help me understand how you are any better than him when you have condemned a state of 1.5 million people on the basis of one foolish man’s argument?

  14. M.B. says:

    This is ignorant and offensive…just like that sheriff. Hope you’re proud of yourself!

  15. M.B. says:

    Oh please, I doubt that he ran for sheriff with the platform, “If the boy scouts ever openly accept gays, I will reject it.” While there are other ignorant people (in Idaho and all other states) that probably support this, I can guarantee you there are just as many people in his county and state that are shaking their heads in disbelief and disgust. Kootenai County accounts for less than 10% of the Idaho population, so even if you’re simple-minded enough to assume that the entire county endorses him, it in no way qualifies as a reasonable representative of Idaho as a whole.

  16. M.B. says:

    “you are uneducated dunce”…goodness man…

    Apparently you also lack the ability to comprehend what I said…I in no way defend bigotry…I’m merely pointing out that those (ehem, you, this sheriff, and others like you) who judge entire groups/populations based on a few outbursts that in no way represent the total population do nothing to further the cause of acceptance and peace. Would the gay community be offended by the sheriff because he is completely wrong about them? Yes. And what about those who live in Idaho, would they be offended by the conclusions you’ve drawn? I think so. You’re angry at him for making wild accusations and drawing illogical conclusions, yet turn around and do it yourself.

  17. moron says:

    I grew up in Idaho. I also lived in western New York for eight years. Anyone who thinks that Idaho has a monopoly on bigotry hasn’t spent much time in the great state of New York.

  18. mike31c says:

    Sad thing is that some people are proud to be ignorant and bigoted like these fools in idaho.

  19. JayRandal says:

    Lol M.B> If you live in Idaho then you are uneducated dunce. I actually feel sorry for you defending bigotry against Gays in Idaho. As for putting me on par with homophobic
    sheriff is preposterous.

  20. skwcw2001 . says:

    we never talk about it but think about this, how many folks are in or have been in prison and died in prison for having to serve a life sentance or still serving as the sentance is granfathered in, how many gays where put in prison by the missuse of the laws or the abuse of them

  21. skwcw2001 . says:

    well we better not tell him that the easter bunny is fake..

  22. George Melby says:

    Excellent outcome! I hope the Aryan Nation is camping out in the mountains in their underwear, where it’s -60 F year-round!

  23. George Melby says:

    Then quit saying and doing STUPID things so you female boys and girls don’t get bashed! Simple solution! “… but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that would act out violently….” Yeah, Matthew Shepard, and thousands of other “victims” are bound to believe THAT BS, may they rest in peace!

  24. George Melby says:

    Sorry to burst your bubble, fella, but this is FAR from an isolated incident. You gotta go back to the root of this Sherriff’s problem… his ignorance, arrogance, and the yahoo people who voted him into office!

  25. George Melby says:

    It is interesting and scary, that as the altitudes of the northern/NW states climbs, the direct ratio of IQ drops like a rock! maybe they ought to revamp their educational plans regarding science out west with a curriculum slot! It is already a known fact that these yahoo people haven’t a clue about the real world outside of the hills! C’mon, people… wise up!

  26. anotherBruce says:

    I hope that isn’t read as agreement with his position. I quit the Boy Scouts after years of being happily involved, in part because of their sudden discovery that anti-gay was one of their “core values.” At the time, they seemed to be suddenly finding a lot of “core values” that came as surprises to me, and to my parents, who were both quite active as adult volunteers.

  27. anotherBruce says:

    I went to high school with him. Not a stupid person. I didn’t think he was bigoted, but LGBT rights never came up in conversation. And people do change over 30 years.

  28. M.B. says:

    Drawing the conclusion that the entire state of Idaho is condemned by this foolish man’s opinion is as close-minded and illogical as what the sheriff said…I assume you’d rather not stoop to that level? This man’s opinion is most likely based on an isolated incident that was blown out of proportion that tainted his perception of the gay community. By basing your opinion of an entire community (or rather, an entire state) on an incident such as this you are no better than him, so kudos to you. PS- Grammatical errors in your original post abound, consider revising so you’ll no longer appear illogical AND uneducated. Good day to you sir.

  29. He’s living in his own private Idaho! Is Mark Furhman living in his jurisdiction?

  30. emjayay says:

    Ahem. Here’s the deal. The National Park Service runs about 390 units. They have 28 different names. About 55 are “parks”. They are mainly the big primarily super scenic ones. The ones called “Monument” only need a president’s signature to carve them out of less protected federal land. That’s because of a law passed in 1915 because looters were getting to places like abandoned Indian Cliff dwellings and going through Congress might take way too long or of course not happen at all. But whatever they are called all the NPS areas have about the same level of protection and the same basic mission. And now (thank you NRA and Republicans) you can enter them while packing heat.

    Being all run by the NPS under the same concepts, all the units may commonly be called parks. You will find the word “Park” on the sign in between “National” and “Service”. They may not be “National Parks” but they are all National Park Service sites.

  31. emjayay says:

    Yes, it’s where cops like to go to retire.

  32. emjayay says:

    Yeah, beautiful NATIONAL parks. (Yes I know there are also state and county and city parks as well.)

  33. emjayay says:

    Yeah, of course being gay doesn’t mean you’re doing it and being straight doesn’t mean your’re not.

  34. JayRandal says:

    Idaho is a very weird state. NO way would I vacation there NOR live there. Sheriff probably too stupid
    to know anything about sex. I feel sorry for Boy Scouts in Idaho.

  35. d3clark says:

    I can understand that you’re sick of getting bashed. But looking at the red states in general, the MAJORITY of the voters there elected those idiots who are trying to or have enacted laws like “Don’t Say Gay.” Fought against the repeal of DADT, support DOMA, resist marriage equality. And it’s not just anti-gay issues: transvaginal ultrasounds, trying to restrict voters, cuts to social welfare programs, tax cuts for big business. Oklahoma elected a Senator who will cheerfully block funding to his own, letting them suffer post-disaster unless he gets budget cuts elsewhere. And many of these people are delighted to protect fetuses but cut food stamps. They’re so proud that they’re “fiscally responsible.” And armed to prevent the invasion of the US. That’s what people see. Not the beautiful parks, the mountains, the history. They see the Teabagger insanity like the Bachmaniac and Klondike Barbie, Gohmert, Adkins and all of the other assholes that the red states support.

  36. d3clark says:

    Whether it’s a sheriff in Idaho or a pastor in Alabama their reasoning is the same. I hate gays. BSA now “supports” gays. I need to hurt gays and the traitor Boy Scouts, but how? Well, I can say that these gay kids are sodomites. Sodomy is illegal. Therefore, I can’t support anything illegal so the BSA and any gays are gone. The “pastor” does the same thing except he blows the “Sodom and Gomorrah” trumpet and well, we just can’t have the BSA here if any of them little perverts are around. Goodbye, Scouts! They rationalize and justify however they need to to make it look like they aren’t bigots.

  37. Jafafa Hots says:

    For me it stops feeling midwest somewhere between Erie, PA and Salamanca, NY

  38. Lioness says:

    I have lived in Idaho my entire life, and really, get sick of people bashing us. I do understand that the majority of our state is extremely conservative, but we are not stupid. I have found that in Southern Idaho at least, the LGBTQA community is strong and supportive. There are numerous organizations such as Lion’s Pride cubs, that encourage LGBTQA youth to lead healthy, happy lifestyles. Even those who do not support sexual diversity do not actively oppose it. You may run across an old farmer or two who is very verbal about their distaste for gays, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that would act out violently against anyone.

  39. karmanot says:

    I bet that sheriff’s deputies carry master batons.

  40. Sweetie says:

    Did their “sodomy” include oral sex and all other non-procreative sex or was it specific to anal?

  41. karmanot says:


  42. Butch1 says:

    I never thought of that. He’d be the perfect “tea-party” candidate. He’s certainly bigoted enough, doesn’t keep up with the news or apparently the law changes. ;-)

  43. BeccaM says:

    Never been there. Might just have to take a look someday.

  44. LynneL says:

    That’s a National Historical Park. There’s a difference. Trust me, I know my National Park nomenclature.

  45. zorbear says:

    Re you kidding? I’d be surprised if the GOP doesn’t talk him into running for president in ’16!

  46. lynchie says:

    It’s why they run in circles like Republicans

  47. karmanot says:

    Figures, my brother is moving there.

  48. karmanot says:

    Better fishing in WY Becca.

  49. karmanot says:

    By pottery ashtrays that have pine incense holders.

  50. karmanot says:

    Was that a Teddy Roosevelt deal?

  51. karmanot says:

    I bet chickens in Idaho are paranoid.

  52. karmanot says:

    But the name Wolf Finger is soooooo gay!

  53. lynchie says:

    Or retractable

  54. BlueIdaho says:

    Exactly! Thank you.

  55. karmanot says:

    Ah, that great yawn between east Berkeley and the Berkshires.

  56. karmanot says:

    Same with Kansas

  57. karmanot says:

    This is more like it!

  58. karmanot says:

    “so do us a favor, and never visit” Oh, honey singing hallelujah and kicking yourself in the ass at the same time just proves the point.

  59. karmanot says:

    Better with the dentures out.

  60. karmanot says:

    Isn’t “Going to the Sun” road in Northern Idaho?

  61. Butch1 says:

    Do you suppose anyone is going to clue this idiot in on the law so that he doesn’t make a fool of himself and arrest a person for being a “homa-sexaweul” or heaven forbid, having sex with another gay person in the privacy of their own room? This bumpkin could be sued and fired for his ignorance.

  62. FLL says:

    As I remember northern Idaho, there seems to be a strong libertarian streak in the population, and I got along pretty well with that group just on a social level. Unfortunately, they have to rub shoulders with the occasional batshit crazy fundie Xtian. But yes, it’s a very beautiful state.

  63. BeccaM says:

    That’s part of why I can’t bring myself to say the entire state is awful. I’ve been there and the scenery can be breathtakingly beautiful.

  64. BeccaM says:

    From personal experience way back, when I’d no idea there were so many supremacist and militia types, and before my father went nuts, he used to take us older kids camping in lots of places. My recollection of Idaho is the fishing was very good.

    That’s why I can’t bring myself to slam the entire state. I’ve some good memories from there.

  65. FLL says:

    I actually drove though Coeur d’Alene once, to visit the parents of a friend from Seattle. That area of northern Idaho is stunningly beautiful.

  66. BeccaM says:

    Good find there.

  67. FLL says:

    We’re not talking about Boise, which is the reasonably large state capital in southern Idaho. Kootenai County is in northern Idaho, and its county seat is Coeur d’Alene. Hayden Lake is a suburb only 6 miles from Coeur d’Alene, and from the 1970s to 2001, Hayden Lake was the headquarters of the violent wingnut group, Aryan Nations. What happened in 2001, you ask? Apparently, a woman and her 19-year-old son were returning from a wedding, driving on the road that passed the Aryan Nations compound. Their car backfired, but the untrained, paranoid jumped in a pickup truck, believing that they were under attack by the “enemies” of the Aryan Nations, and started shooting at the woman’s car, blowing out the tire and forcing it off the road. The Aryan Nations guards beat the woman and her son with rifles, and the Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against the Aryan Nations in which ownership of the Hayden Lake compound was transferred to the plaintiffs, the woman and her son. Welcome to Kootenai County, Idaho.

  68. Monoceros Forth says:

    Depends on whether the fellow is careful with his teeth.

  69. Monoceros Forth says:

    I’ve never done anything in Idaho other than drive through in a couple of different places but, heck, no state that contains part of the Rocky Mountains can be entirely boring. And it does contain part of Yellowstone.

  70. BeccaM says:

    The real problem is in some of these far-flung areas, it almost doesn’t matter what the law actually is, what matters is what the local law enforcement says it is. As Ninong and others have indicated, this Sheriff is essentially saying, “Gay people are not welcome in my jurisdiction, and if I see any, you’re going to jail until a judge says otherwise.”

    Sadly, Kootenai County isn’t the only place where this is likely to be the case.

  71. Blogvader says:

    What’s there to do in Idaho anyway?

  72. cole3244 says:

    its not surprising that sheriff wolfinger would be uninformed that is a prerequisite for being a bigot, stupidity is number one on the list.

  73. BeccaM says:

    I wouldn’t go there either, since Idaho is one of those states which goes out of its way to ensure that my wife and I have no legal protections and recognition.

  74. BeccaM says:

    Nez Perce is considered a national park.

  75. LynneL says:

    Yes, we have great recreation areas, but, sadly, no national parks, with the exception of a sliver of Yellowstone. We do, however, have some national monuments, such as Craters of the Moon, the Hagerman Fossil Beds, and the Minidoka Internment National Monument.

  76. lynchie says:

    Who doesn’t love a bj

  77. mirror says:

    Note, however, that these vacation spots are in exactly the locations where Idahos defenders/apologists tell us the Tea baggers are. Would I want to go there to hang out with my mixed race family?

  78. Matt says:

    By all means Nicho, don’t come here. It’s full of violent gun toting rednecks. You wouldn’t like it – or even be safe. And tell your friends.

  79. BeccaM says:

    To be fair, Idaho has some amazing national parks and recreation areas.

  80. Just think: 10 years wasted…

  81. Ninong says:

    Even thought the Lawrence decision made all sodomy laws unconstitutional, they’re still on the books in many states that are dominated by rednecks! Many local law enforcement agencies, especially in rural areas, still use them selectively to harass gay people. They will arrest them and lock them up in jail but then charges are never brought and they are released as soon as they appear in court before a judge, if not sooner. It’s just a way for some ignorant jackasses to exercise their dislike for anything gay.

    Apparently they can get away with it as long as the law is still on the books. I have never read of anyone suing them for this yet.

  82. sunmusing says:

    It wasn’t named after a potato?

  83. RussTX says:

    Mm, John I think you’re confused along with the sheriff. If you google up Idaho Code 18-6605, you will see it is still on the books in Idaho, as anti-sodomy laws are in 15 or so states. Ultimately not enforceable because of the Supreme Court ruling, but still technically state law, and sometimes used to harass LGBT people – a phenomenon you can also easily google up. So the sheriff is bigoted but technically correct and not so ignorant as you claim. Also, the penalty as you will see if you look up the law is not life imprisonment, merely five years; but still outrageous of course in any case.

  84. boocat says:

    Coeur d’Alene is in Kootenai County – and EXTREMELY conservative.

  85. BlueIdaho says:

    Christina, I also live in Boise. People who are unfamiliar with the city, don’t realize how liberal it is. We have a democrat for a mayor and a great city council that recently passed protections for our LGBT community. Are most of the state’s residents conservative? Yes. Are many of them far-right tea baggers? Yes. However, most of these live in the rural areas as you mentioned–Idaho has many many small communities where sometimes I wonder if they get their mail by pony express. We are diligently working with other progressives, in the state, on the issues that are important to us. It is an uphill battle but the fight continues. Also, if you’ve never seen the sawtooth or ohwyee mountains you are missing a real treat. :-)

  86. Monoceros Forth says:

    Fortunately on the I-90 it takes scarcely more than an hour and the scenery is very nice.

  87. Christina says:

    Although this Sheriff is indeed stupid, that by no means represents Idaho as a whole. What many don’t understand is the majority of Idaho is rural, including Kootenai County. Idaho is also incredibly spaced out, the big cities are separated, and not every small town is near the bigger cities. Now I’m not defending this sheriff in any means, but I’m pointing out to you that this doesn’t define the state of Idaho. the fact that the majority of Americans decide to base their opinions about Idaho on the negative stories they hear (including this journalist), can’t help me think that you all are incredibly ignorant and stubborn. I come from Boise, I write this in Boise, and I am not a republic hillbilly farmer that believes nothing but conservative thoughts, and I can tell you that not many idahoans falls in that stereotype. I almost felt bad for all the commenters saying that Idaho is flyover state, and they’d never visit it, but then I realize that you all would tear down the spirit through your negative ignorance, so do us a favor, and never visit the great factors Idaho has to offer. But next time you think of Idaho as a waste of space, consider if you really know anything about this state, because your ignorant remarks as such really makes no correlation to the life of Idaho.

  88. Jafafa Hots says:

    It feels midwest to me once I get east of the Berkeley Hills.

  89. UncleBucky says:

    Put on depends, load up on gasoline, snacks and drinks, and drive straight through.

  90. UncleBucky says:

    Betcha the sheriff’s deputies at one time or another tried “sodomy” or even “masturbbbbation” (“HAIR” the song, “Sodomy”)

    I betcha they even did a bit of fellatio, too, when no one was looking!

  91. nicho says:

    And people would go to Idaho why? I was going to call it a “flyover state,” but because of it’s location, I’m not even sure it qualifies as that — unless you’re flying into or out of Seattle.

  92. That isn’t the Midwest! And we’ve got multiple Native American named states in the Midwest.

  93. iamlegion says:

    It’s pretty, but it’s also disturbingly close to where the white supremacists set up & still have some sway. Boise is to Idaho what Austin is to Texas.

  94. Jafafa Hots says:

    Idaho is not a native word.

    Some white people thought it would sound good to have a state in the midwest with a native-sounding name but couldn’t be bothered to find a real one, they felt idaho, which failed politician George M. Willing came up with, was nice and injun-sounding, so they wanted that. Tried a to get it used for a state but Colorado won out as a name. Tried again and were successful against what had been the favored name – Montana. Montana ended up getting used elsewhere.

    Somehow that story seems to set the mood for this one, to me…

  95. Hatfield says:

    Yes, they are probably gone regarding the presidency but they so far seem pretty alive and well on the state level, unfortunately.

  96. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Beauty is only skin deep, but stupid goes bone deep.

  97. caphillprof says:

    One has to spend a lot of time and effort to be this stupid.

  98. GKKunkel says:

    The state known for Potatoes, Mormons and Neo-Nazi’s. Coeur d’Alene is nice :)

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