When in 2003 the Supreme Court of the United State’s ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that so-called sodomy bans throughout the United States are unconstitutional because they infringe citizens’ right to privacy, you might have thought this form of anti-gay discrimination would now be over. Sadly, no.
Recently Louisiana State Representative Patricia Smith introduced legislation to amend Louisiana’s criminal codes to remove the state’s now antiquated sodomy ban. The ban makes it an offense for anyone to have non vaginal sex (14:89). Obviously the ban, when it was enforceable, was doubly injurious to same-sex couples and was used as a primary means of prosecuting and persecuting them.
Smith was moved to this action after it emerged last year that police in Baton Rouge had been arresting gay men and charging them under that code, claiming they were unaware the Supreme Court had made the ban unenforceable. To their credit, Baton Rouge police supported Smith’s effort (Smith represents the area) to repeal the ban so that no confusion would happen in the future. This should have been a done deal, a simple mater of tidying up the law books to make sure that the law is absolutely clear.
Staggeringly, though, this past week a Republican-led effort saw the Louisiana House vote to retain the ban 67-27 with 11 lawmakers absent. More than ten of those voting against the repeal were Democratic lawmakers.
The lawmaker who championed opposition to the repeal, Representative Valarie Hodges, argued that repealing the ban would be bad for public morality, and agreed with local so-called Christian organizations like the Louisiana Family Forum (affiliates of the wider and known anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family) saying that repealing the ban would leave teenagers vulnerable to predators, even though Louisiana has a strong raft of laws to deal with sexual offenses against minors and, to repeat again, the sodomy ban has been unenforceable for more than a decade now so isn’t protecting anyone at all.
“I never thought it would pass, but I thought it would do better,” a disappointed Smith is quoted as saying. “Some of the folks who voted to get it out of committee voted against it on the floor.”
While Louisiana is one of 13 states that still refuse to strike their sodomy bans, this latest move has shocked a great many progressives, especially over the Democratic lawmakers’ involvement. As a result, a number of people have now come up with interesting ways to protest the ban.
It Gets Better co-founder and sex advice guru Dan Savage sent out an appeal over his social media sites asking for people to track down the Twitter handles of every lawmaker who voted against repealing the ban so that he could ask each and every one of them to admit if they have ever had non-vaginal sex. Savage, a master of attention-getting stunts like this (remember when he redefined Santorum?), is therefore hoping to force the lawmakers to admit their own hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, the media has noted one very interesting fact: Louisiana lawmakers have fought to retain the unenforceable sodomy ban on “morality” grounds, all the while never seeking to remedy that necrophilia, that is, attempting to commit or actually committing sexual acts with a deceased person, remains legal in the state. In fact, several states that have refused to repeal their sodomy bans do not ban necrophilia, including North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kansas.
So what’s to be done about these sodomy bans? It may be that LGBT rights supporters will now take to the courts to remedy the situation in Louisiana. The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that moral disapproval does not justify discrimination against a minority (most recently in Windsor). They may seek to have the courts compel lawmakers to remove the law so as to ensure that never again can it be used to disguise discrimination, but that obviously will take time and money, something that shouldn’t be necessary to have Louisiana lawmakers do the right thing.
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