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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 16
Louisiana lawmakers vote to keep unconstitutional sodomy law on the books
Section One
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Louisiana lawmakers vote to keep unconstitutional sodomy law on the books

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer Louisiana's House of Representatives voted on April 15 to keep the state's sodomy law on the books, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such measures unconstitutional in 2003.

The vote was 27 to repeal the old law, and 67 to retain it. Eleven House members did not vote.

All but three of the 27 votes to strike down the law were from Democrats, while all but 11 of the 66 votes to keep it were from Republicans. Most of those who did not vote were Democrats.

The sponsor of the repeal bill, Democratic Representative Patricia Haynes Smith of Baton Rouge, told Times-Picayune reporters that 'I never thought [the repeal bill] would pass, but I thought it would do better. Some of the folks who voted to get it out of committee voted against it on the floor.'

According to The Associated Press, Republican Representative Valarie Hodges was the only person to speak against the repeal, telling her colleagues that 'we're not here to rubber-stamp the Supreme Court.'

Louisiana code 14:89 prohibits consensual 'unnatural carnal copulation,' including oral sex and all same-sex contact. The 'use of the genital organ of one of the offenders of whatever sex is sufficient to constitute the crime,' the law says. Curiously enough, a number of sexual acts are explicitly described in the law, but necrophilia is omitted and therefore is presumably legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that such laws violate constitutional rights to privacy, thus making the Louisiana law unenforceable.

Nevertheless, the Louisiana Family Forum lobbied strongly to keep the measure on the books.

'Louisiana's anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral,' the group wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

The Louisiana Family Forum also alleged that the law was essential to protect children from sodomy, even though several other state laws provide for such protections.

During the floor debate on repeal, Representative Smith pushed back against those arguments, pointing out that the law is unconstitutional and therefore void.

Last year the law made headlines when the Baton Rouge Sheriff's Department used it to justify a sting operation aimed at local Gay men. Deputies were sent to entrap men cruising Manchac Park, arresting several men who agreed to go to a private home to have sex.

The Sheriff defended the operation by citing the state's sodomy law. When informed that the law was unconstitutional, the department apologized for entrapping the men.

The Louisiana Sheriff's Association did not take a position on repealing the bill.

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