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By MARY FOSTER
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Louisiana’s 200-year-old law against solicitation of oral and anal sex is archaic, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.
So says a coalition of lawyers and social activists who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday challenging the state’s “crimes against nature” law, which makes solicitation of such acts illegal.
In Louisiana, prostitutes do not have to register as sex offenders unless they are charged more than once with having oral or anal sex. Those who are paid for only those types of sex do have to register if arrested a second time.
Attorney Alexis Agathocleous of the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights said Wednesday that distinction targets homosexuals, transsexuals and poor and minority women who work as prostitutes.
“Four in 10 of the people in Orleans Parish Prison are there because of a ‘crime against nature,”’ Agathocleous said.
And 97 percent of the women registered as sex offenders in the state are charged with “crime against nature,” said co-council Andrea Ritchie.
Not only is the law unconstitutional, it is enforced completely at the discretion of the arresting officer, Ritchie said.
“This leaves the door wide open to discriminatory enforcement targeting black women, transgender women and gay men for a charge that carries much harsher penalties,” Ritchie said. “That decision can change the entire course of a person’s life.”
People who are registered as a sex offender must notify their neighbors, have their name and offense published in the newspaper, appear on the sex offender website, and have the words “Sex Offender” stamped in bright orange on their driver’s license or state ID.
The registration is for at least 15 years and can be for life.
Ritchie said one woman convicted of the crime cannot take her daughter to day care now because of the sex offender designation which restricts the amount of contact she can have with minors.
“It can hurt people for years and keep them from getting their lives together,” said Deon Haywood, executive director of Women With a Vision, which works with women at risk.
“Lawmakers modified the law last summer, rescinding the need for those charged with crimes against nature to register as sex offenders, but only after the first arrest. If arrested a second time they must register. They did nothing to modify the requirement for those previously arrested on the charge to remain registered, Agathocleous said.
“All other sex offender crimes involve children, violence, coercion,” he said. “None of those things are involved in the crimes against nature.”
The state attorney general’s office said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment.