Louisiana's 19th-century sodomy law, the subject of past unsuccessful court and legislative challenges, is a step closer to being struck down after a senate committee hearing on Tuesday. A measure to repeal the law, sponsored by Sen. Lynn Dean (R-Braithwaite), would legalize private, consensual sex that has otherwise been deemed illegal--what the current law calls a "crime against nature." Two years ago a similar bill was defeated in the house of representatives after making it through committee. Last fall a state appeals court upheld the 197-year-old law.
Tuesday's bill survived critical testimony from conservative activists--and may even have been helped by it. Sen. Paulette Irons (D-New Orleans) was attacked by one of the witnesses, Pat Harris of New Orleans, for supporting a "gay rights platform." Harris refused to identify herself further after the meeting. Her observation provoked a furious rebuttal from Irons and the announcement from Sen. Greg Tarver (D-Shreveport) that he would vote for the bill because a fellow senator had been attacked. "During my duration here in the legislature, I've always voted against these laws," Tarver said. "You attacked a legislator, and I'm going to vote to move this out of committee."