Louisiana Law Said To Target Homosexuals
Associate Press, October 27, 1998
By Alan Clendenning, Associated Press Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A Louisiana law banning oral and anal sex between
consenting adults violates privacy rights and legitimizes hatred of homosexuals, according
to a lawyer for gays who challenged the measure.
"This law is maintained by the Louisiana Legislature strictly as a measure of
bigotry," attorney John Rawls said as the trial began Monday. "It's a stupid,
idiotic law. But beyond that, it is a law of suppression."
Louisiana is one of 13 states that make consensual oral and anal sex between
heterosexual or homosexual couples a crime, even if the sex takes place behind closed
doors in a home. Six other states have sodomy laws banning such sex between homosexual
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 upheld Georgia's sodomy law as applied to its ban on
consenting adults engaging in homosexual conduct. That decision prompted gay rights
advocates to file lawsuits in state courts arguing the laws violate state constitutions.
Many constitutions, including Louisiana's, provide greater protection against invasion
of privacy than the provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Seven gay men and lesbians and the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians filed the
lawsuit, claiming they face violence and discrimination because of the law.
The Louisiana statute dates to the early 1800s, shortly after France sold the area to
the United States, and makes the crime a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The statute has not been enforced since the lawsuit was filed in 1994 and a judge
halted prosecution of sodomy cases. The injunction will be removed if Civil Judge Carolyn
Gill-Jefferson finds the law is constitutional.
About 2,000 heterosexuals and homosexuals were arrested for violating the law between
1988 and 1994, Rawls said. However, he said homosexuals were at greater risk of arrest
because legal intercourse is not a sexual option.
"This law is government's way of saying we're second-class citizens," Rawls
said. "It works as a convenient justification for people who want to beat up gays and
lesbians on the streets."
Lawyers for the state have indicated in court papers that Louisiana has the right to
deter conduct deemed immoral and impose penalties.
Sodomy laws in 31 states have been overturned or legislated out of existence since
1972, Rawls said. But he said Louisiana legislators were afraid to repeal the state
statute because they would be labeled "pro gay."
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