La. Legislators Refuse to Repeal Sodomy Ban

The state's House of Representatives, facing pressure from the Christian right, votes down a repeal of the unconstitutional, unenforceable law that has nonetheless continued to be used as grounds for arrest.

BY Trudy Ring

April 16 2014 12:57 PM ET

Rep. Patricia Haynes-Smith, sponsor of the repeal measure

Under pressure from conservative Christian activists, the Louisiana House of Representatives has rejected legislation that would repeal the state’s unconstitutional, unenforceable sodomy ban.

The House rejected the bill Tuesday by a vote of 67 to 27, with 11 members not voting, reports The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “I never thought it would pass, but I thought it would do better,” said its chief sponsor, Rep. Patricia Haynes-Smith. “Some of the folks who voted to get it out of committee voted against it on the floor.”

While the bill was under consideration, the Louisiana Family Forum, which The Times-Picayune calls “one of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups,” sent a letter to every lawmaker urging them to vote against the repeal.

“Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral,” said the letter. It also claimed the law was needed to protect young people from sexual predators.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, finding sodomy laws unconstitutional nationwide, means Louisiana cannot enforce the law, but as recently as last summer authorities used it as grounds for arrest. East Baton Rouge Parish sheriffs’ deputies cited it in arresting men who agreed to have sex with male undercover officers; the parish’s district attorney, however, refused to prosecute the men, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux eventually apologized for the arrests.

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