Last edited: April 16, 2005


Appellate Court Hears About La. “Crimes Against Nature” Law

The Shreveport Times, April 1, 2005

By Adam Nossiter, The Associated Press

GRETNA—A gay rights lawyer told an appellate court Thursday that a Louisiana law is discriminatory because it allows the state to break up advocacy groups like his.

“Anytime an attorney general wants to, he can come along and haul that organization into court,” John Rawls of the Louisiana Electorate for Gays and Lesbians told three judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in this New Orleans suburb. “Freedom of association is one of the must fundamental rights Americans enjoy.”

The justices made no immediate ruling but said they would consider Rawls’ argument against that law and his claim against remaining parts of the so-called “crimes against nature” law forbidding human sex with animals, solicitation for oral and anal sex, and nonconsensual sex.

In a brief counter-argument and without elaborating, Terry M. Boudreaux of the Jefferson district attorney’s office said the latter law is properly still on the books.

“The law is the law,” he said outside the courthouse, adding that “we never prosecute” cases under the crimes against nature statute.

As for the other law—targeting homosexual organizations, among others—he said that is a matter for Louisiana’s attorney general.

Thursday’s court arguments have their origins in a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down anti-sodomy laws throughout the nation.

Last year, Judge Robert Murphy of Jefferson Parish followed the Supreme Court by striking down part of the “crimes against nature” law that makes it criminal for consenting adults to have oral or anal sex. He declined to strike down a law making the state attorney general’s office responsible for prosecuting homosexual groups and those promoting prostitution and narcotics.

Rawls wants the references to homosexuality struck from that law.

Murphy also left intact parts of the crimes against nature law forbidding human sex with animals, solicitation for oral and anal sex, and aggravated crimes against nature—aggravated usually meaning nonconsensual sex or sex involving someone who is under age.

Rawls said he is not arguing that those parts should remain legal. The problem, he said in a pretrial interview Wednesday, is the judge did more than just delete sections: He rewrote a section with more than 100 words into one with 15 words.

“A judge, with the best of intentions, cannot rewrite a statute. Even if the result that he winds up with is the best statute in the world, it is not a statute.”

Rawls said the entire crimes against nature law should be struck down in light of the 2003 Supreme Court case. Since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out sodomy laws and the Louisiana Legislature so far has done nothing to pass laws to replace Louisiana’s, “it’s the obligation of the courts to throw the law out,” Rawls argued.

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