Last edited: February 14, 2005

High Court Ruling Makes Louisiana Sodomy Law Partly Unenforceable

Associated Press, June 26, 2003

By Alan Sayre

NEW ORLEANS—Louisiana cannot enforce its 198-year-old law banning private oral and anal sex between consenting adults after Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a ban on gay sex, the state attorney general said.

Richard Ieyoub released a statement saying Louisiana’s law “would be unenforceable” except for provisions that ban acts of sodomy with prostitutes and animals.

On a 6-3 vote, the high court ruled that a Texas sodomy law—which applied only to gays—was an unconstitutional violation of privacy. Texas and three other states banned sex acts only between same-sex couples.

Louisiana is one of nine states with laws prohibiting consensual oral and anal sex for everyone.

Gay and lesbian activists around the state cheered the Supreme Court ruling. John Rawls, an attorney representing the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians, said the high court had negated all state sodomy laws, regardless of whether they covered just gays or both gays and heterosexuals.

“It’s a home run. It’s all gone,” Rawls said. “It means that there is no longer a legal basis for denying lesbian and gay people equality before the law.”

One candidate for governor, Republican Jay Blossman, immediately promised to sign any anti-sodomy bill coming out of the Legislature so it could be used as a challenge of Thursday’s ruling.

Blossman, a member of the utility-regulating Public Service Commission, said the ruling “is obviously the first step towards legitimizing same sex unions and making the institution of marriage a relic of the past.”

Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling “signals a new era in gay rights” and provides additional privacy protections for all couples.

“This is a landmark case for the rights of all people who have intimate associations with others in the privacy of their homes,” Cook said.

Last year, the Louisiana Supreme Court shot down two challenges to the state sodomy law. In one ruling, the high court ruled the law did not violate the privacy clause of the state constitution.

In a separate ruling, the court turned aside arguments that the law discriminates against gays and lesbians, presumably because it could be applied to married couples.

During this year’s legislative session, Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Braithwaite, sponsored a repeal of the law. A Senate committee approved the legislation, but it died without further action.

On Thursday, Dean said he was pleased by the ruling.

“That accomplishes what I wanted to do, repeal our sodomy law,” he said. “We’ve now got a little bit more freedom in this country we call the land of the free.”

Ray Gratia, a New Orleans resident who is active in gay issues, said the Supreme Court’s ruling “is a recognition of current relationships in society.”

“It’s great news that the Supreme Court recognizes the rights of individuals to express their love for one another without regard to sexual orientation, as well as protection for individuals’ rights to privacy,” he said.

In defending the law previously, state prosecutors said the statute is seldom used, except on prostitutes and their customers. But the law’s opponents said a universal ban on sodomy could be used at any time, against any couple, if it remained on the books.

Rawls compared the fight against sodomy laws as “the mirror image of the fight of African-Americans against segregation.”

“I cannot exaggerate the importance of this case to gays and lesbians. But it says something wonderful about this country, no matter how ancient and wrong a law is, we have the ability to seek redress,” Rawls said.

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