La. Upholds Sodomy Law

ByABC News
July 7, 2000, 2:49 PM

N E W   O R L E A N S, July 7 -- A divided state Supreme Court has upheldLouisianas 195-year-old sodomy law, under which consenting adultscould receive up to five years in prison for engaging in oral oranal sex.

The state constitutions privacy clause does nothing to protectthose who could be prosecuted, the 5-2 decision said.

Simply put, commission of what the Legislature determines asan immoral act, even if consensual and private, is an injuryagainst society itself, Justice Chet Traylor wrote for themajority. A violation of the criminal law of this state is notjustified as an element of the liberty or privacy guaranteed bythis states constitution.

In their dissent, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero Jr. and JusticeHarry Lemmon said the sodomy law fails to protect against unwantedsexual behavior and represents an intrusion of government intocitizens homes.

The only apparent purpose of the prohibition is to dictate thetype of sex that is acceptable to legislators, Lemmon wrote.Two married persons should be able to choose how they conducttheir nonpublic, voluntary sexual relations in the security oftheir own home; a law that takes that choice away from them is anintrusion by the legislative branch that is constitutionallyintolerable.

Calogero added that the government has no legitimate interest orcompelling reason to regulate the sexual behavior of consentingadults.

Privacy Still An IssueThe ruling did not affect a pending civil lawsuit, filed bygay-rights advocates, challenging the sodomy law on differentissues.

The majority said Thursdays ruling, as a practical matter, willhelp put sex offenders in jail without intruding on the privatelives of consenting adults.

If an act of sodomy is truly consensual and private, it wouldbe impractical to enforce the statute against the participants,since both would be guilty of the crime of sodomy and,consequently, there would be no victim to file charges andinstitute a prosecution, Traylor wrote.