Last edited: February 14, 2005


Louisiana Law Said To Target Homosexuals

Associated Press, October 26, 1998

By Alan Clendenning, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- Gay men and lesbians who must break a state law to have sex went to court Monday to overturn Louisiana's sodomy law, saying it is unconstitutional and legitimizes hatred of homosexuals.

At the start of a long-awaited civil trial challenging the law, a lawyer claimed state legislators are afraid to repeal it because they would be labeled "pro gay."

But the lawmakers have ended up perpetuating anti-homosexual discrimination and violence, said John Rawls, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven homosexuals and the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians.

"This law is maintained by the Louisiana Legislature strictly as a measure of bigotry," Rawls said.

Louisiana is one of 13 states that make consensual oral and anal sex between heterosexual or homosexual couples a crime, even if the sex takes place behind closed doors in a home. Six other states have sodomy laws banning such sex between homosexual couples only.

The Louisiana law dates to the early 1800s, shortly after France sold the state to the United States, and makes the crime a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

About 2,000 heterosexuals and homosexuals were arrested for violating the law between 1988 and 1994, Rawls said. However, he said homosexuals risk being targeted more because legal intercourse is not one of their sexual options.

The law has not been enforced since the lawsuit was filed in 1994 and a judge halted prosecution of sodomy cases. The injunction also prevented a nationwide boycott of Louisiana by gay groups.

The injunction will no longer be valid if Civil Judge Carolyn Gill- Jefferson finds that the law is constitutional.

Lawyers for the state have indicated in court papers that they will argue Louisiana has the right to deter immoral conduct and impose penalties, but they gave no opening statement as the trial opened. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Halligan, the lead attorney, declined to comment later.

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia's sodomy law, saying bans against such conduct have ancient roots. That decision prompted gay rights advocates to file lawsuits in state courts saying sodomy laws violate state constitutions.

Many state constitutions, including Louisiana's, provide greater protection against invasion of privacy than the provisions in the U.S. Constitution.

Sodomy laws in 31 states have been overturned or legislated out of existence since 1972, Rawls said.

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