Justice

Police Arrest Two Men Under Anti-Sodomy Law Declared Unconstitutional In 2003

CREDIT: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana arrested two men last week under a statute prohibiting “unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex.” Meanwhile, the Supreme Court declared bans on sex between consenting adults more than a decade ago.

The arrest occurred after an officer discovered the two men having sex in the backseat of a car that was parked after hours in a public park. Though a judge eventually threw the “crime against nature” count out, both men were booked into a local prison and at least one of them was still in that prison the afternoon after his arrest.

As a constitutional matter, the two men could still face criminal charges for their actions. Both men face trespassing charges — and trespassing charges do not become unconstitutional simply because the trespassers were having sex. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas still permits prosecutions for public sex acts. The statute that the two men were charged under bans any form of so-called “unnatural carnal copulation,” even if it is done privately and with consent. So it is unconstitutional.

As recently as 2013, the Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office ran an unconstitutional sting operation where officers sought out men interested in having consensual gay sex and then arrested the men for so-called crimes against nature, though none of these men were prosecuted. After the more recent incident last week, Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie sent a memo to his department reminding them not to arrest people under the unconstitutional crimes against nature law.