In a story that has gone viral, especially in the gay community, it has been charged that some dozen East Baton Rouge men were arrested since 2011 for sex offenses that should have been no longer on the books.
Although sex in public and solicitation of “unnatural carnal copulation” for money are illegal in Louisiana, most of the men were arrested after agreeing to have sex at a private residence. While the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that a Texas law against oral or anal sex was invalid, Louisiana lawmakers did not change some key criminal code language, and that is what led to the police confusion. “Crime against nature” remained part of Louisiana law, punishable by up to five years at hard labor and a $2,000 fine. The criminal code defined that a “crime against nature is the unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex or opposite sex or with an animal.”
Reportedly lacking on the Louisiana books, however, is a definition of just what makes copulation unnatural. In the meantime, the district attorney’s office will decline to prosecute the men, and the sheriff’s department has announced it will no longer enforce the ambiguous law. A July 18 arrest was the most recent for a man who allegedly agreed to have sex with a male undercover agent.
Everybody has tossed the ball back to the lawmakers, but that is not enough for some critics of the arrests. One councilman said the sheriff owed an apology to the men arrested, as well as the entire parish. The councilman argues that the sheriff’s department could not hide behind not knowing that the law had been changed by the Supreme Court decision in 2003. He further maintained that the sheriff’s actions were a violation of the civil rights of the arrested men.
Although this is an unusual story where the state corrects itself, there is little doubt that defense lawyers for the accused men would have raised the issue of the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on the prosecution of these arrested men.
edgeboston.com, “Baton Rouge Police Arrested Men Under Overturned Law” No author given, Jul. 31, 2013