The Louisiana House voted 66-27 on Tuesday to keep the state's unconstitutional sodomy ban under Louisiana’s crimes against nature law.
The Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision invalidated all state bans on gay sex, declaring them unconstitutional. But Louisiana, along with several other states, has refused to strike the provision from state law. On Tuesday, the House rejected a bill, sponsored by state Rep. Patricia Haynes Smith (D), that would have done just that.
The statute that bans sodomy cannot be used as a cause for arrest, but Smith told The Times-Picayune that she introduced the legislation after East Baton Rouge Parish sheriffs' deputies arrested more than a dozen men suspected of “attempted crimes against nature.”
"We want to be fair to the law enforcement individuals,” Smith said during a committee hearing last week, according to The Times-Picayune. “We don't need inefficient bills on our statutes that they cannot take to a prosecutor.”
Advocates of the law, including the conservative Christian Louisiana Family Forum, argued that the statute protects children from aggravated "crimes against nature," although Smith pointed out that at least a dozen other laws protect minors from sexual assault.
In a letter urging Louisiana lawmakers to reject the proposal, the influential Christian lobbying organization wrote, “Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy, and immoral.”
In a hearing earlier this month, Bill Smith, a member of the Louisiana Family Forum, told committee members that anti-sodomy laws save the lives of gay people by decreasing their exposure to HIV.
"I have homosexuals in my family. I'm here out of love and concern for the health of these people," Smith said in April. "The fact is this opens up ways for them to really kill themselves."
Although Patricia Haynes Smith did not believe the bill would pass, she expressed dismay at the overwhelming numbers that opposed the effort.
"I never thought it would pass, but I thought it would do better," Smith told The Times-Picayune. "Some of the folks who voted to get it out of committee voted against it on the floor."
(h/t The Times-Picayune)