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Sodomy laws are still being used to harass LGBTQ people

sex work, Louisiana, sodomy laws
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Among the wildly dressed marchers this year at New Orleans’ Southern Decadence parade were “100 people dressed as police officers, politicians, and preachers” protesting “Louisiana’s 214-year-old law banning ‘unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex,’ writes Nico Lang at Out.

“Opponents say the anti-sodomy law has continued to be used to punish sex workers, particularly trans women of color,” Lang reports.

Related: India’s Supreme Court overturns sodomy ban in a landmark ruling

In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Lawrence v. Texas that anti-sodomy laws nationwide are unconstitutional state intrusions into the private sexual activities of consenting adults that further no government interests. Furthermore, the court ruled that because sodomy laws mostly target gay and bisexual men (among other LGBTQ people), they violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause guaranteeing fair application of laws regardless of gender.

However, Louisiana’s law gets around this by being so vaguely worded as to be applicable to any kind of sex that prosecutors object to (and not just sodomy). Furthermore, Lang writes, “12 men were reportedly arrested under the statute in the East Baton Rouge Parish six years ago, although all charges against them were later thrown out of court.”

The fact that Louisiana’s law exists at all gives police a tool for harassing queer people, costing them time, money, reputation, stress and legal hassle that can seriously impede their lives.

Sodomy laws remain on the books in 12 states including Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. Worse yet, anti-LGBT groups like Alliance Defending Freedom sometimes point to these laws as proof of U.S. support of anti-sodomy laws in foreign countries like Jamaica.

State legislators often don’t want to repeal these laws because they don’t want to go on record as “supporting sodomy” and these laws serve a symbolic function of showing some citizens’ continued opposition to certain behaviors.

Until they do, queer people will remain subject to police harassment in response to laws that shouldn’t exist to begin with.

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