Louisiana Sodomy Law Survives Repeal Effort
June 21, 2001
Source: Southern Voice
By Mike Fleming
BATON ROUGE The Louisiana Senate voted June 13 to
renounce the states sodomy law, in the form of an amendment to a House bill
that fine-tunes some aspects of Louisianas existing sex offender
registration laws. Although a legislative committee stripped the amendment
from the bill two days later, gay activists nevertheless called the Senates
vote "the beginning of the end" of the sodomy law.
Meanwhile, the last week of the states legislative session showed
progress on other gay civil rights issues, including a measure providing
domestic violence protective orders for dating partners that covers same-sex
State Sen. Charles Jones (D-Monroe) moved to introduce the sodomy amendment
to House Bill 2047 by state Rep. Daniel Martiny (R-Metairie), which would
toughen the states mandatory sex-offender registration laws. The amendment
would decriminalize private, noncommercial sex acts between consenting adults.
"At some point, we must recognize that government intrusion into our
private lives has to stop," Jones said. "We still have the right to
privacy under the Louisiana Constitution."
The 196-year-old state sodomy law makes it illegal to engage in oral or
anal sex, even when committed in private by consenting adults. The law applies
to gay, straight, married or unmarried couples.
Jones lobbied the Senate to do what House colleagues didnt on May 17,
when a similar bill failed on a 46-46 vote, said Melinda Shelton, executive
director of Louisiana Lesbian & Gay Political Action Caucus. LAGPAC
orchestrated the amendment by working with senators to catch opposition off
guard, she said.
The bill went back to the House June 15 and was referred to a conference
committee. Martiny advised the committee at that time to strip the amendment,
and they did. The measure, as all unfinished business, was expected to die on
Monday when the legislative session ended.
"Even though we have not turned over the sodomy law yet, I still count
the Senates willingness to fight [the Crimes Against Nature statute] as
another in a long list of victories this session," Shelton said.
In another move, the state Senate joined the state House in approving
domestic violence protections for dating couples under the states Domestic
Abuse Assistance Act. In a 34-4 vote in favor of a bill by Rep. Jackie
Clarkson (R-New Orleans), the Senate moved the bill to the governors desk
for final approval.
Conservative state Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker) moved to amend the bill to
exclude same-sex couples when it was up for debate in the House. The House
approved the bill without Perkins amendment. In a similar stance, Sen.
"Clo" Fontenot (R-Livingston) made the same plea to the Senate, but
the body denied his efforts.
"[Assuming the bill is signed], dating couples can apply for
court-administered protective orders against violent dating partners,"
Shelton said. "Protective orders carry far greater legal weight than
temporary restraining orders that can be obtained against people who threaten
Legal experts agreed.
"Jackie Clarksons bill closes an important loophole," said Ayn
Stehr, legal advisor to the Louisiana Protective Order Registry. "At
least now the people who are affected by violence and who arent married or
in otherwise sanctioned relationships have an avenue to seek
If the governor signs the bill, the law would go into effect on Aug. 15,
At the beginning of the 2001 legislative session, gay lobbyists said there
were no gay-specific issues on the roster, but that there were some ideas
brewing, which later saw the light of day during the session, said Chris
Daigle, co-chair of LAGPAC.
"It was a very busy session," Daigle said. "We saw the
beginning of the end for sodomy laws in Louisiana, workplace protection for
gay men and lesbians was passed out of committee and saw close and heavy
debate for the first time on the full Senate floor, and [Fontenots]
anti-civil unions bill was defeated."
LAGPAC can count a consistently improving coalition building effort among
reasons for their success this year, Daigle said. Both labor lobbyists and the
ACLU can be counted among LAGPAC allies that will serve gay rights well into
the future, he said.
Continuing the coalition effort will be the focus of LAGPACs off time,
"There is a lot of work to be done," she said. "My goal is
the formation of a coalition of progressive organizations to fight this still
greatly homophobic [legislative] body."
Groups to include in their efforts include Planned Parenthood, social
workers lobbies, labor, education and AIDS activists, Shelton said.
"The far right is highly organized and conniving in their
efforts," Shelton said. "Weve got to fight those efforts with
A legal effort to repeal the measure is moving through the courts.
[Home] [News] [Louisiana]