Last week a Baton Rouge, Louisiana sheriff’s office caught controversy over arresting over a dozen gay men for seeing free, consensual sex with other men.
When you scroll through the related headlines the same qualifier appears: Invalid—this invalid sodomy law, invalidated by the courts… but surely what gives a law its validity or its enforceability is its ability to achieve a desired action. For example, laws that put meth labbers in jail succeed in taking meth labbers out of meth labs. Laws that seek to tax average consumers over high income earners succeed in raising the price of rent, insurance, food, and all the other things the rich never worry about. And if the desired action of the Baton Rouge sheriff’s department is to create a hostile and unwelcoming environment for homosexuals, they’ve achieved that with gusto. Calling the law invalid serves only to invalidate the experiences of those whose lives are now ruined by this antiquated law. The Baton Rouge police don’t want to jail homosexuals and fill up the prisons with gay men. They want to run the gays out of town. Without retribution, and with no legal recourse for their victims, that’s exactly what they’ve done.
These men were outed by this “Bag-A-Fag” entrapment program to their families, their friends, and their communities. Their names are now attached to the word sodomy in background checks and crime blotters. While they are not facing conviction, they have still been charged with sex crimes and now carry the stigma included in those charges. In many jurisdictions where charges like this have been filed (although I’m not sure about Baton Rouge), those charged have had to file as sex offenders on a public online registry or face up to 15 years in state prison for “crimes against nature”.
Even more than that is the message this terrible law enforcement sends. It sends the message to young gay men that Louisiana is not the place for them; that they should leave or live in paranoia that their next hook-up will be a sting. The law says to those charged that they are unwelcome in their own communities and that the police—the public servants whose job it is to “serve and protect”—will never be on their side. Those charged can never be convicted, but they are all stigmatized, ostracized, and publicly outed. The message here is that gay men are lesser than other Americans, that their sexual expression is criminal, and that they should kill themselves or move away.
States with sodomy laws still on the books include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Current Virginia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Ken “Transvaginal Ultrasound” Cuccinelli wants to bring Virginia’s sodomy law back into enforcement, obviously nostalgic for the days of institutionalized bigotry and community lynchings. His campaign for this law is being run under the guise of keeping children safe from sexual abuse, although the sodomy laws Ken is arguing for have nothing to do with children.