Two metro councilmen support striking state anti-sodomy laws

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- East Baton Rouge Parish metro councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado, left to right, support a resolution in favor of a bill that would take Louisiana's anti-sodomy law off the books. Show caption
Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- East Baton Rouge Parish metro councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado, left to right, support a resolution in favor of a bill that would take Louisiana's anti-sodomy law off the books.

Two Baton Rouge councilmen are showing their support for state Rep. Patricia Smith’s bill in the Legislature that seeks to remove a law deemed unconstitutional a decade ago but was used last year by the Sheriff’s Office to arrest gay men.

East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilmen Ryan Heck and John Delgado are asking the council to approve a resolution in support of Smith’s bill that, if approved, would eliminate a portion of the anti-sodomy law.

The resolution also asks members of the Baton Rouge legislative delegation to vote in favor of the proposed change.

“We can’t change the law, but we’re behind the effort,” Heck said. “The courts have struck down this provision of the law, and it’s our duty to make sure laws reflect what’s actually law.”

House Bill 12, proposed by Smith, D-Baton Rouge, for the 2014 session, targets Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. However, it remains in the Louisiana statutes.

“We know as a matter of the law that (the state’s anti-sodomy law) is unconstitutional,” Delgado said. “But since it’s still on the books, it created an error — and I’m being generous there — in the sheriff’s understanding of what the law was.”

Last year, The Advocate reported that East Baton Rouge Parish deputies arrested at least a dozen men since 2011 using the outdated anti-sodomy statute, inciting outrage from gay advocacy groups and prompting an apology from Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.

The men were booked on counts of attempted crimes against nature; however, District Attorney Hillar Moore III declined to prosecute them.

Specifically, House Bill 12 would eliminate the portion of the law that prohibits consensual oral and anal sex between human beings from these laws: crime against nature and aggravated crime against nature.

The anti-sodomy law would continue to apply to “unnatural” sexual acts with an animal.

The Metro Council is expected to vote on the nonbinding resolution Feb. 12.

Smith’s bill will be considered during the legislative session, which opens March 10.