Louisiana sodomy law challenge gets under way

BY Advocate.com Editors

September 06 2002 12:00 AM ET

Louisiana's nearly 200-year-old ban on oral and anal sex is as discriminatory against gays as the segregation of public facilities was against blacks, a lawyer told a trio of appeals court judges Wednesday.

"It's illegal in Louisiana for me to have sex...and the government of Louisiana says if I don't like it, I can go somewhere else," said John D. Rawls, an attorney for the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians Inc. "I'm old enough to remember segregation of blacks and whites in the South...and back then it was the same thing: If you don't like it, go somewhere else." Rawls urged the state's fourth circuit court of appeals to add Louisiana to the 37 other states that have either disposed of or never had laws banning consensual oral or anal sex between adults.

The judges on the panel deciding the appeal are Joan Bernard Armstrong, Charles Jones, and David Gorbaty. Armstrong and Jones are black.

The appeals court got the case after the Louisiana supreme court in late March ruled that the sodomy ban does not violate anyone's right to privacy, one of the grounds on which LEGL initially filed the civil lawsuit. After ruling on the privacy matter, the supreme court asked the lower appeals court to decide whether the law discriminates against gay men and women. The high court also left open 10 other questions, including whether the law is arbitrarily enforced against gays and lesbians and whether it constitutes a state endorsement of religious beliefs against homosexuality.

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