Louisiana Sodomy Law Ruled Unconstitutional
March 19, 2001
By Mike Fleming
NEW ORLEANS Supporting a decision she made less
than a year ago, Civil District Court Judge Carolyn W. Gill-Jefferson ruled
again on March 9 that the Louisiana sodomy law violates the state constitutions
The Louisiana Supreme Court had asked Gill-Jefferson to revisit the ruling
in light of a case related to the sodomy finding.
"A mans home is still his castle in Louisiana," said John
Rawls, a New Orleans attorney who challenged the state sodomy law on behalf of
members of the Louisiana Electorate of Gays & Lesbians.
"The judge has upheld the right to privacy, and it is now legal for
private, consensual, non-commercial adult sex to be at the discretion of the
people involved," Rawls said.
Gill-Jefferson will issue a permanent injunction against the statute, which
calls anal and oral sexual acts between adults in their homes immoral and
punishable by up to five years in prison and $2,000 in fines.
The judge could take up to 10 days to sign the official order with the
The ruling will automatically be appealed to the state Supreme Court,
according to Charles Braud, assistant attorney general.
The issue was on remand from the Louisiana Supreme Court, which had asked
Gill-Jefferson to clarify her 1999 ruling that said, in part, the anti-sodomy
law violates the states guarantees of privacy.
LEGAL and nine gay men and lesbians have appealed other parts of
Gill-Jeffersons ruling, which supported sections of the 196-year-old
The ruling Friday surprised Braud, who said that the case Gill-Jefferson
was asked to review before the ruling was, in his opinion "all
But the judge disagreed.
"[The case in question] has no bearing on the matter of the crimes
against nature law, as it was a case of non-consensual sex,"
Gill-Jefferson said. "The Supreme Courts ruling was overbroad in
scope. Therefore, I am upholding my original ruling. The Supreme Court has not
given a compelling reason why the state should control private, non-commercial
consensual sexual behavior between adult human beings."
In oral arguments, Rawls said that Louisiana is behind the times of modern
thought, noting the laws in many European countries and even 34 states in the
U.S. all "declare the bedroom off-limits to government."
Braud argued that his office is not trying to make a determination of right
and wrong, only that addressing such statutes is not for the judiciary, but
should be left to lawmakers.
"The Supreme Court was saying to Judge Gill-Jefferson that the law is
there, its been there for 200 years, and were not going to change it. If
you want it changed, go to the legislature," Braud said.
The ruling does not apply to the portion of the sodomy law that deals with
prostitution or commercial sexual acts. That portion of the statute still
remains in effect.
By ruling a portion of the states sodomy law unconstitutional,
Gill-Jefferson put the case on a fast track to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
That court upheld the statute in a criminal case last year, but has yet to
make a final determination in a civil case, like the LEGAL challenge.
"For now, every bedroom in Louisiana is safe from prying eyes. Not
since King George III of England have we seen a greater threat to our freedom
or liberty," Rawls countered.
Currently, 12 states ban all anal or oral sex, with some exceptions for
married couples, while five states ban anal and oral sex between same-sex
partners. A few states, like Louisiana and Texas, are awaiting the final
outcomes to challenges to sodomy laws.
Some 32 states have repealed sodomy laws by legislation or litigation, says
the sodomylaws.org website.
Some 30 years ago, every state in the union had sodomy laws on the books,
said Steve Scarborough of the Southern regional office of the Lambda Legal
Defense & Education Fund, a legal group which has challenged sodomy laws
in several states.
"Things are going extremely well, with those states in the shrinking
minority," he said.
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