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Council Makes Permanent Rule on Sex Thought to Spread AIDS

December 20, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ An emergency regulation used to close establishments that allow sex acts associated with AIDS became permanent state law Friday despite the opposition of some homosexual groups.

By a 14-1 vote, the state Public Health Council reiterated its Oct. 25 approval of the regulation, which prohibits establishments from allowing anal intercourse or fellatio on its premises.

Without Friday’s action, the law - which has resulted in the padlocking of a gay bar and a gay bathhouse, and the voluntary closing of some other establishments - would have expired Dec. 24.

The law still must face a court challenge brought by the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which claims that the regulation is unconstitutional .

The council did not amend the regulation, but did change an accompanying resolution to emphasize that intravenous drug abuse is also a major means of spreading acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and to note that education is necessary to fight the spread of the disease.

Only one member of the council, Dr. Victor Sidel, opposed the regulation, claiming that it was not based on thorough study of how AIDS is spread.

Morton P. Hyman, the chairman of the council, said the regulation will be amended as more is learned about AIDS.

″Thee are issues relating to civil liberties and privacy. ... We must, to the best of our ability, reach a reasoned balance between those concerns and the concerns relating to public health,″ Hyman said.

He also condemned those who would use the council’s findings ″to encourage bigotry and discrimination.″

This did not comfort representatives of the gay community who attended the meeting. ″What we have in effect is a homophobic action and a sexist action,″ said Darrell Yates Rist of the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Defamation League.

″We are concerned that the regulatory actions ... establish dangerous precedent in favor of the reinstitution of sodomy statutes and other violations of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy,″ said Rosemary Kuropat, co-director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Rist asserted that the council was derelict in prohibiting fellatio, which he said has not been proved to spread AIDS, while allowing vaginal intercourse, which he said is a risk.

Dr. David Axelrod, the state health commissioner, said that the few instances in which women have reported contracting AIDS through vaginal intercourse have been the subject of much medical debate.

AIDS is a deadly illness in which the body’s immune system becomes unable to resist disease. There is no known cure.