July 9, 2000
12:06 AM   Subscribe

Louisiana's Supreme Court has upheld a two-century-old law that makes oral and anal sex between consenting adults punishable by up to five years in jail. Where they're liable to have...you guessed it... oral and anal sex. Good thinking.

"Any claim that private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state proscription is unsupportable," Justice Chet Traylor wrote for the majority. It was hard for me to imagine a learned adjudicator uttering such nonsense, until I repeated it out loud in a slow, Boss Hogg drawl...
posted by quonsar (21 comments total)

I was recently surprised to find out that Texas also has an "anti-sodomy" law.

I can't believe they can legistlate such stupidity.

But then again the friends I have in TX are law-breakers anyway... heh heh.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 1:37 AM on July 9, 2000

This is so bloody weird. I sit and think about the UK's weird laws regarding sex - and some of them are really pretty weird - but then for some reason I assume that the law in America will be more organised and even liberal. But I guess not...

What's legal in San Fran? Cos I'm thinking of moving there in about a year...
posted by barbelith at 1:44 AM on July 9, 2000

The anti-sodomy laws of two centuries' vintage are a well-known outrage, as well as their long tradition of selective enforcement... if it's the act itself that's outlawed, don't all the sex studies show that there are a lot more heterosexuals who do it than there are homosexuals PERIOD?
But another thing that bothers me that nobody talks about is the assumption made in the second paragraph about the common practice of homosexual rape in prisons, that is such a commonly accepted concept that Jay Leno alludes to it at least once a week in a monologue joke... Doesn't this very ugly cliche' (that I suspect is a lot less common than assumed) just creates an image joining homosexuality to violent criminals, therefore justifying violence against gays to a lot of "law abiding" citizens?
posted by wendell at 2:45 AM on July 9, 2000

land of the free!

i wouldn't doubt another moves by the religious right
posted by dominic at 3:09 AM on July 9, 2000

Actually, the anti-"sodomy" law in Texas was just struck down by the Texas Supreme Court, to the disappointment of TX Gov. George W. Bush, who supported the law for moral and historical reasons. Whatever that means. But it's rulings like LA's that make me want to give more money to the ACLU. And I would, except for being a poor college student and all...
posted by UWliberal at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2000

Status of U.S. Sodomy Laws via the aclu.

posted by alan at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2000

Reading the page linked by alan above, I see now my pleasant little fantasy that this is "just none of my business" is, in fact, not true. My parents having retired to, of all culture-forsaken places South Carolina, I see that my partner and I will be most likely in violation of the law prohibiting "the abominable act of buggery." Should I take comfort in the fact that I will be guilty of a crime that sounds like a Dickens character ("Little Simon waited anxiously, twisting his hat in his hands, for Mr. Buggery to return and meet out his punishment.") and not a "crime against nature"? Who are these people anyway, and what century do they think they are living in?!
posted by m.polo at 8:22 AM on July 9, 2000

from the article:
"Sodomy has been prohibited in Louisiana since at least 1805 when it was a felony carrying a mandatory life sentence under the laws of the Territory of Orleans."

This is absolutely outrageous, especially when I think about the things that go on during Mardi Gras every spring, and how the French Quarter of New Orleans is sort of like the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

Fucking outrageous. It's the year 2000, right?
posted by mathowie at 8:27 AM on July 9, 2000

Yes, it's the year 2000... but you must under no circumstances underestimate the determination of the many, many people who wish it weren't.

Some of them are even running for public office. Horrors.

And didn't they essentially admit that this is *designed* to be selectively enforced - that it exists so they can pile on more charges in a sexual assault case, not because they actually intend to go out and bust consenting adults? What a trifling way to handle something so serious as a law carrying jail time. Yeah, brilliant, people - but I've got a better idea. Let's make ALL sex acts illegal, and just casually agree not to bust anyone for them (wink, nudge) - but boy, when a rape case comes up (or somebody pisses off a prominent politician, or finds out something they shouldn't...) we can string 'em up six ways from Sunday! Yeah, that'll solve a lot of problems.


posted by Mars Saxman at 11:59 AM on July 9, 2000

what would it take to have the US Supreme Court rule on this? these laws need to disappear once and for all.
posted by sudama at 12:25 PM on July 9, 2000

Oh gee whiz I don't know. I kinda like the laws in question here because it means we can throw in jail any and all politicians in one fell swoop since they repeatedly sodomize the American people.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2000

funny law, considering the amount of sex clubs and brothels in and around new orleans...
posted by patricking at 3:28 PM on July 9, 2000

what would it take to have the US Supreme Court rule on this?

It already has. Besides, are you sure you want this court revisiting the issue?
posted by mikewas at 5:38 PM on July 9, 2000

Incidentally, is it the consensus here that sexual activity in general is a matter of privacy? If so, is there any sphere of sexual activity (statutory rape, etc.) that should be regulated by the government? Where should we draw the line?
posted by mikewas at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2000

I think we're probably unanimous on the "if it's between consenting adults, it's none of the State's business" thing. (It complicates things a little that the 50 states often have wildly differing notions of where "adulthood" begins as far as sex goes, but that's a moot point.)

So logically, the court should become the arbitrator of the subjective matter of consent, rather than the objective matter of the act itself: that's where you draw the line. And really, the courts have enough to think about when it comes to issues of ambiguous legal consent (date rape, rape within marriage etc) to be occupying themselves with such historical relics.

(There was the case in Britain where a group of men who were into hard S/M stuff (nails through the bollocks, I believe) had their actions declared illegal by the courts. This, from judges who are usually portrayed as enjoying the services of London's dominatrices... bizarre in the extreme.)
posted by holgate at 6:34 PM on July 9, 2000

Missouri has an "anti-sodomy" law on the books as well, although we've been attempting its repeal since the Bowers v. Hardwick decision in 1986. Last year, a Missouri court indirectly called the law into question, but that's had virtually no effect on efforts at repeal.

Like some states', Missouri's law criminalizes consensual sodomy only between people of the same sex. And, unfortunately, perhaps the biggest roadblock to repeal is that Missouri's statute is part of a larger "Sexual Misconduct Statute," which also bars rape and child sexual abuse, so lawmakers and voters are reluctant to support rolling back the anti-sodomy provision for fear of weakening the parts which actually are misconduct.

Back in the late 80s, I suggested that, as a means of protesting the absurdity of the law, we all turn ourselves in. Show up at the police station, bearing sworn affidavits admitting we'd broken the law, and demanding to be brought to "justice." In sufficient number, I reasoned, we'd overwhelm the authorities and, with proper media attention and the good common sense of a majority of Missourians, see the law overturned.

Given the crowded closets at the time, there weren't many takers and we never actually did it, but I still think it's a good idea as a protest. Um, Million Sodomite March anyone?
posted by bradlands at 9:38 PM on July 9, 2000

Brad, you didn't forget Michael Moore's Sodomobile that followed the good Rev. Phelps around last year?

I think it's ludicrous to lump sodomy laws with rape and child sexual abuse, as those are acts of horrific violence, not consenual sex.
posted by mathowie at 11:18 PM on July 9, 2000

Forget the Sodomobile? Never! For a while there, I was earnestly hoping it would replace that tired ol' black rocket-powered thing in the next George Clooney-Chris O'Donnell softporn flick Batman movie.

As ludicrous as it may be to combine rape and consensual same-sex relations in prohibitive statutory law, that's at least understandable given that many, if not most, of these laws were first drafted and passed in the 19th century, when Victorian thinking was just known as thinking. What's more ludicrous still, though, is that these chestnuts survive on the brink of the 21st century.

Molly Ivins was asked about antediluvian legislation like this when she swung through Missouri a few years back. "Y'all say about your summers that it's not the heat, it's the humidity," she said. "When it comes to this kind of silliness, it's not the hate, it's the stupidity."
posted by bradlands at 12:35 AM on July 10, 2000

Will the late 20th century be remembered as a time when a few countries flirted with the idea of equal rights, but then decided to go back to being an ignorant, hate filled species?

By the way, it's god's church, not yours.
posted by alan at 10:17 AM on July 10, 2000

What I don't get is why are they wasting time and money making laws that cannot possibly be enforced.
Are they going to next pass a law that states sex cannot be had unless witnessed by some old Quaker-looking guy?
"Hey! Hey!! Get that out of there! I'm warning you! Watch it! Oooh! That's it! Your in deep shit now buddy!!"
posted by Nyarlathotep at 9:40 AM on July 11, 2000

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