Michigan took one step forward and two steps back Thursday when its Senate passed a bill that left intact the state's archaic and unconstitutional sodomy law as part of a set of regulations designed to protect animals from abuse, according to The New Civil Rights Movement.
But after LGBT activists decried the "missed opportunity" to strike the unconstitutional provision from the law, the statewide equality organization announced Tuesday that the bill will not move forward with that now-unenforceable language, according to an update from the news site.
The state is one of around one dozen to maintain laws prohibiting "crimes against nature," which are generally interpreted to ban sodomy, broadly defined as anything that is not procreative, heterosexual sex. Many of these laws remain on the books more than a decade after they were deemed unconstitutional in the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas. That landmark case rendered unenforceable antisodomy laws nationwide that criminalized certain types of consensual sexual behavior between adults.
In Michigan, the legislation SB 219 is known as Logan's Law, named for a Siberian Husky who suffered acid burns at the hands of an animal abuser. The law makes it illegal for someone convicted of animal abuse to own another animal for five years, but it also upholds the state's prohibition on "the abomindable and detestable crime against nature ... with mankind or with any animal":
"Sec. 158. (1)
AnyA person who shall commitCOMMITS the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal shall beIS guilty of a felony , punishable by imprisonment in the state prisonFOR not more than 15 years, or if such personTHE DEFENDANT was A SEXUALLY DELINQUENT PERSON at the time of the saidoffense, a sexually delinquent person, may be AFELONY punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life."
The law's implications for human sodomy could have been cleared up by striking the phrase "either with mankind" from the language, along with the other words struck in the citation above. However, the bill's author, Republican Sen. Rick Jones, told The New Civil Rights Movement he could not oblige.
"The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done," Jones told the outlet. "Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional."
Essentially he's explaining that because the antisodomy implication of the law is already unenforceable, there is no use in launching into a heated legislative battle to remove that language when such an effort could doom the attempt to further criminalize animal cruelty.
Jones told The New Civil Rights Movement "that he thinks the only way to repeal the sodomy ban would be a bill striking all unconstitutional laws from the state's books."
"But if you focus on it, people just go ballistic," he said. "If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No."
Though sodomy laws like Michigan's are unconstitutional, as Jones rightly states, they have been used to arrest people in recent history. Last year two men were arrested in Louisiana under the unconstitutional antisodomy regulations still on the books in their state. Globally, such laws are often used to criminalize homosexuality.