Last edited: December 31, 2004


Louisiana State Appeals Court Strikes Down Sodomy Law

Ruling Will Be Appealed

The Associated Press, February 12, 1999

By Alan Clendenning

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A state appeals court has struck down a 194-year-old Louisiana law that made oral and anal sex a felony, saying the law violated the privacy rights of consenting adults.

The decision adds to the growing list of states that have struck down sodomy laws based on rights to privacy granted in state constitutions.

The Louisiana court on Tuesday reversed the 1996 conviction of Mitchell E. Smith. He had been accused of raping a woman but found guilty under the state's "crimes against nature" statute only of having her perform oral sex.

"There can be no doubt that the right of consenting adults to engage in private non-commercial sexual activity, free from governmental interference, is protected by the privacy clause of the Louisiana Constitution," the court held.

Courts in Georgia, Kentucky, Montana and Tennessee previously had reached the same conclusion in interpreting their respective state constitutions and striking down sodomy laws.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1986 in a Georgia case that consenting adults have no federal constitutional right to private homosexual conduct, activists have turned to individual state constitutions to find protection from the sodomy laws.

The U.S. Constitution does not mention the word "privacy," but the Supreme Court since 1965 has recognized that such a right predates the 1787 document itself. However, many state constitutions expressly grant a right to privacy.

Suzanne Goldberg, senior staff attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense Fund in New York City, was jubilant about Tuesday's decision.

"These laws have no legitimate purpose and that's what courts are starting to recognize," she said. "The government should not be in the business of policing private sexual behavior."

The decision will be appealed, said prosecutor Tim McElroy.

[Home] [News] [Louisiana]