Louisiana Sex Law Violates LGBT Rights, Judge Rules

In Louisiana, the state prostitution law does not require registration as a sex offender. But Louisiana has a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) law, which is harsher, is mainly used on black transgender and other women, and that has required those found guilty to register as sex offenders.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the requirement is unconstitutional.

Police and prosecutors had unfettered discretion in choosing which law to charge under. The judge found that the discrepancy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

The state Legislature amended the 200-year-old law last year so that anyone convicted no longer will be required to register as a sex offender. But the change didn’t apply to roughly 400 people who already had been convicted of the crime and were registered sex offenders.

Many have been unable to secure work or housing as a result of their registration as sex offenders. Several of the plaintiffs had been barred from homeless shelters, one had been physically threatened by a neighbor, and another had been refused residential substance abuse treatment because providers will not accept registered sex offenders at their facilities.

Apart from LGBT, the law was also being discriminatorily applied against poor black women.

Said Alexis Agathocleous, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, which brought the case:

“[The] decision is a powerful vindication of our clients’ right to equal protection before the law. The court has agreed that they have been singled out for this harsh treatment without a legitimate or rational purpose, and that this cannot stand.”

Wrote Judge Martin L. C. Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana:

“The defendants [Louisiana Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell] fail to credibly serve up even one unique legitimating governmental interest that can rationally explain the registration requirement imposed on those convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation.”

“The Court is left with no other conclusion but that the relationship between the classification is so shallow as to render the distinction wholly arbitrary,” he wrote.

Feldman said the issue before him was “not about approval or disapproval of sexual beliefs or mores. It is about the mandate of equality that is enshrined in the Constitution.”

Feldman gave the state five days to submit a proposed judgment consistent with his decision.

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Image by Graham Blackall

53 comments

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons4 years ago

they should legalize prostitution and regulate it much safer and get rid of a lot of bad worse crimes.

Sam Richardson

This is great, what a fantastic ruling by the judge. Too often the poorest and more oppressed in society are the ones that are continuously vilified, and the audacity of need to register as a 'sex offender' for being a prostitute is completely insane.

Richard T.
Richard T.4 years ago

Thank you!

Erika M.
Erika M.4 years ago

I think the ones that had to register as sex offenders before the law was deemed unconstitutional should have their names removed from the list. How is prostitution considered a sex offense? The guys ASK for it.

janice b.
jan b.4 years ago

If the customer isn't registered as a sex offender, then they can be voted into congress like David Vitter was. Apparently, voters in Louisiana don't CARE about prostitution as much as some of the State Legislators do.

Muriel C.
Muriel C.4 years ago

To me, it has never made sense that, if prostitution is illegal, the customers aren't prosecuted as well. After all, drug users, recipients of bribery, receler of stolen goods are also prosecuted.
If prostitution is a sex crime and the person found guilty is mandated to register as a sex offender, then all sex offender must register. If other "sex" crimes do not carry the same obligation, then neither should prostitution (the judge called this well)
As far as crimes against nature, considering that chimps and monkeys are also practicing both hetero and homosexual prostitution, I don't think the term is well chosen.
Quite frankly, I believe that if prostitutes were given a chance to earn a living an other way, they would (and don't speak of flipping burgers or waiting table: those jobs don't give access to living wages). Only customers and pimps would mourn the disappearance of prostitution.

Taylor Richardson

Agreed, thank you for sharing.

Louisiana has a TON of unjust laws, not to mention plenty of corruption. I can say that having grown up there.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

How's about just legalizing prostitution and licensing prostitutes, including required monthly health checks and disease scans.

Anne Cole
.4 years ago

Michael B. address this point - the law was deemed unconstitutional. Your opinion had no effect on the decision.