Louisiana State Appeals Court Strikes Down Sodomy Law
Ruling Will Be Appealed
The Associated Press, February 12, 1999
By Alan Clendenning
NEW ORLEANS (AP) A state appeals court has struck down a
194-year-old Louisiana law that made oral and anal sex a felony, saying the law violated
the privacy rights of consenting adults.
The decision adds to the growing list of states that have struck down sodomy laws based
on rights to privacy granted in state constitutions.
The Louisiana court on Tuesday reversed the 1996 conviction of Mitchell E. Smith. He
had been accused of raping a woman but found guilty under the state's "crimes against
nature" statute only of having her perform oral sex.
"There can be no doubt that the right of consenting adults to engage in private
non-commercial sexual activity, free from governmental interference, is protected by the
privacy clause of the Louisiana Constitution," the court held.
Courts in Georgia, Kentucky, Montana and Tennessee previously had reached the same
conclusion in interpreting their respective state constitutions and striking down sodomy
Since the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1986 in a Georgia case that consenting adults have
no federal constitutional right to private homosexual conduct, activists have turned to
individual state constitutions to find protection from the sodomy laws.
The U.S. Constitution does not mention the word "privacy," but the Supreme
Court since 1965 has recognized that such a right predates the 1787 document itself.
However, many state constitutions expressly grant a right to privacy.
Suzanne Goldberg, senior staff attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund in New York
City, was jubilant about Tuesday's decision.
"These laws have no legitimate purpose and that's what courts are starting to
recognize," she said. "The government should not be in the business of policing
private sexual behavior."
The decision will be appealed, said prosecutor Tim McElroy.
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