Last edited: February 13, 2005


Louisiana a Backwater State in Relation to Sex Issue

Baton Rouge Advocate, June 7, 2001
525 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Fax: 504-388-0371

By Lanny Keller, Advocate staff writer

The governor has signed into law a package of bills he has long sought to reorganize the state Department of Economic Development. The Legislature might well have already undone whatever good the new and improved DED is supposed to accomplish, by provoking hoots from late-night comedian Jay Leno.

Leno ridiculed the failure of the Legislature to repeal Louisiana’s sodomy law, which forbids oral and anal sex.

Once the DED gets around to hiring its proposed hot-shot marketing team—at six-figures a year, apiece—the new hires might want to tell their bosses about the hot concept in business: branding.

Your commercial prospects are determined by the value of your brand name.

Branding by Leno as a benighted backwater of the sexual revolution is just one of the ways that Louisiana has been ill-served by the 2001 Legislature.

Sex sells, or at least attracts attention, and the debates about sexual laws and practice this session haven’t done the state a lot of good in the brand department.

To be sure, the Senate managed a responsible debate about a bill to ban job discrimination against homosexuals. The vote was 14-21 against the bill, killing it for the session. The debate was emotional but not heated, as members focused on the issues involved.

The Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus called the session a generally constructive one, as anti-gay initiatives were shelved and the Senate debate marked an advance in educating legislators about gay issues.

However, far beyond gay and lesbian concerns is the astonishing unwillingness of the House to repeal a sodomy law that is almost two centuries old.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, proposed exempting consensual sex from Louisiana’s "crime against nature" statute. Today’s law criminalizes sexual behavior between consenting adults, married or single, gay or straight, in their own bedrooms.

The ban on oral and anal sex in the "crime against nature" statute is admittedly rarely enforced. If it were widely enforced, vast numbers of citizens could suffer penalties of up to five years in prison.

Sexual mores in this country have changed, sometimes for the worse, but the idea of state intrusion into bedrooms is an anachronism.

Selective enforcement of the law is a real danger. A 1982 Georgia case went to the U.S. Supreme Court after police arrested two men in their bedroom. In a 5-4 decision, the high court in 1987 upheld the arrest.

The Louisiana Supreme Court has failed to follow the lead of a number of other state courts in the United States, which have struck down such laws as invasions of personal privacy. With the explicit statement of the right to privacy enshrined in the state constitution, the court’s reluctance to act is surprising.

Richmond’s bill is preferable to a court decision. If passed—it failed to pass on its first try—it would be a statement through the political process that privacy in these intimate areas should be respected.

Nor is opposition to the sodomy law always coming from political liberals. The chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, urged his colleagues to show a little courage.

Arizona, a conservative Republican state, repealed its sodomy statute last month. Gov. Jane Hull (R) signed the bill. "Keeping archaic laws on the books does not promote high moral standards; instead it teaches the lesson that laws are made to be broken," she said.

It also keeps you in the line of fire from Jay Leno’s writers. We could spend $100 million a year on the Department of Economic Development, and not match the free publicity we get every spring from the state Legislature.

—Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is

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