BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state’s unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, sought to remove consensual sex between people of the same sex from Louisiana’s crimes against nature law. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out a similar Texas law a decade ago in Lawrence v. Texas.
Smith brought the bill after Baton Rouge-area police arrested gay men using the law but couldn’t charge them because the district attorney said the law was unenforceable.
She said the bill would help police officers do their jobs more efficiently by getting rid of an unusable law.
“The bill only removes unconstitutional language,” she said.
But Smith couldn’t win the backing of the House, which voted 66-27 against her repeal proposal. The bill was opposed by religious and conservative organizations.
Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, objected to the measure, saying the law protects children and upholds morality.
“It’s a vote of conscience,” she said.
Opponents of Smith’s proposal have argued that the repeal would remove minors’ protection from aggravated crimes against nature. Smith disagreed, saying at least 12 other statutes protect minors from sexual assault.
Smith also said opponents gave false information to lawmakers about the repeal leading to more cases of HIV. Opponents made that argument at the bill’s committee hearing last week.
“That is also not true,” Smith said.
Hodges said the state should maintain the law despite what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
Hodges was the only one who spoke against the bill on the House floor.
Reps. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, and Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, both supported the bill. Landry asked Smith if the U.S. Supreme Court has authority over all states, and James asked Smith if the bill has support from local law enforcement. Smith said yes to both.
However, Equality Louisiana, a gay rights organization that supported Smith’s measure, has expressed disappointment in the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association because it did not push for passage of the bill after previously indicating it supported the repeal.
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