Louisiana Using 214-Year-Old ‘Sodomy’ Law to Target Sex Workers

In a landmark 2003 case, Lawrence v. Texas, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the usually centuries-old “anti-sodomy” laws then still on the books in many states were unconstitutional. The statutes, also sometimes referred to as “Crimes Against Nature” laws, violated the Constitution’s Due Process Clause by intruding on the liberty  of private individuals to engage in private conduct, with the state unable to show any “compelling” interest in stopping them. 

But in Louisiana, according to a group of activists who demonstrated at the New Orleans annual “Southern Decadence Festival” last week, still not only has its “CANS” laws on the books, but police are using those unconstitutional laws to target sex workers—specifically trans women of color, according to a report appearing in Out Magazine on Thursday.

As recently as last year, Louisiana passed a new CANS bill banning bestiality—sexual abuse of animals—but at least 10 Republicans opposed the law because it decoupled bestiality from sodomy, an act involving human-on-human sexual contact. The two acts were previously bundled together in one law banning both. But Republicans determined to keep the anti-LGBTQ sodomy laws on the books feared that the new law would be a “Trojan horse” that would lead to abolition of the anti-sodomy law.

But that, trans sex worker turned social activist Wendi Cooper told Out, is exactly what needs to happen.

“We want to get the CANS law eradicated instead of revised,” said Cooper, a program director at activist group Operation Restoration. “Women of my experience—LGBTQ+ people who have experienced this archaic law—need to have a sense of reentering society by being able to get employed, get housing, get the things they need without this law hindering us from doing so.”

In 1999, Cooper was convicted under the anti-sodomy laws and forced to register as a sex offender. At the time, that meant the words “sex offender” being emblazoned on her driver’s license. And in the case of sheltering during a hurricane, registered sex offenders were segregated, away from others in disaster relief shelters.

Those provisions of the law have since been revised, with about 700 people removed from sex offender registries, according to Out.

“These are the issues we as black trans women are dealing with,” Cooper told the magazine. “We want to show white LGBTQ+ folks that black LGBTQ+ folks are being criminalized under CANS for doing some of the same things that white LGBTQ+ folks are doing.”

Photo By bellemarematt / Wikimedia Commons 

https://avn.com/business/articles/legal/louisiana-using-214-year-old-sodomy-law-to-target-sex-workers-845998.html

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