Last edited: January 02, 2005


Senate Revives Proposal to Change Sodomy Law

Baton Rouge Advocate, June 14, 2001
525 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge, LA 70821
Fax: 504-388-0371

By Marsha Shuler and Randy McClain, Capitol News Bureau

The Senate breathed new life Wednesday into a proposal to legalize oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults.

The Senate voted 19-14 to add the provision to another bill dealing with sex offenders and then approved the altered House Bill 2047 on a 23-12 vote.

The Senate maneuver will force another House vote on the controversial proposal, perhaps as early as today.

Gay-rights advocates and lawmakers who think the state’s current anti-sodomy law amounts to an invasion of privacy against even married couples said they’re encouraged the bill has a chance to pass.

"This is a law for single, married, straight, gay, everyone," said Chris Daigle, government affairs director with the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians.

Under Louisiana’s sodomy law, oral and anal sex are felonies, regardless of whether the participants are homosexuals, heterosexuals or even married to each other.

The law, which is rarely enforced, has a maximum five-year prison sentence.

"The law makes 70 percent to 80 percent of the people in Louisiana felons," Daigle said, adding that homosexuals in the state are afraid of selective enforcement by police.

The fate of the bill in the House is uncertain. The House killed earlier legislation that would have loosened the law.

Baton Rouge’s parks director complained at the time that relaxing the law might complicate efforts to stop homosexual activity in local parks.

Under the new Senate-backed change, sexual activity would specifically remain illegal in public parks and restrooms.

But sex acts between consenting adults in private would not be deemed a crime against nature.

Daigle said his organization doesn’t condone public sex acts.

The Legislature’s consideration of killing the state’s sodomy law comes amid a small flurry of activity on the same front in other states.

Arizona repealed its sodomy law last month. Republican Gov. Jane Hull signed the bill, saying, "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.

Sen. Charles Jones, D-Monroe, said some sex acts between married couples could be considered a crime under state law.

"At some point we must recognize that government intrusion into private lives has to stop," Jones said. "We still have the right to privacy under the Louisiana Constitution."

"This amendment says government ought not intrude in our personal lives, in our own homes," Jones said.

Sen. Art Lentini, R-Metairie, objected, saying the addition makes a change in criminal law in a bill designed to fix another problem.

There was no other vocal Senate opposition.

Some opponents say selective enforcement is a real danger. A 1982 Georgia case went to the U.S. Supreme Court after police arrested two men in their bedroom engaging in oral sex. In a 5-4 decision, the high court in 1987 (sic: it was 1986) upheld the arrest.

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