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Sodomy law busts: sheriff says 'sorry' 

After national criticism, East Baton Rouge cracks down

  Following a flurry of local and national ridicule, East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III apologized July 29 for a dozen arrests of gay men using defunct sodomy laws. The Baton Rouge Advocate revealed that the agency arrested a dozen gay men from 2011 to 2013 during sting operations in public parks in which undercover officers would approach men and ask them to engage in consensual sex. The men were then arrested under Louisiana "sodomy laws" that were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas.

  In his apology, Gautreaux said he would push for the state to remove the sodomy ban from Louisiana statutes. The ban still remains in Louisiana law because state lawmakers have refused to repeal it and the men, though arrested, were never prosecuted.

  Gautreaux also is working with Equality Louisiana and Capital City Alliance to repeal the so-called "crimes against nature" laws. "Our agency made mistakes; we will learn from them; and we will take measures to ensure it does not happen again," Gautreaux said in a July 29 letter to Capital City Alliance.

  In June, a series of lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights removed hundreds of "crimes against nature" offenders from the state's sex offender registry. People convicted of solicitation for crimes against nature (oral and anal sex) were required to register, while people who are convicted of prostitution did not. A law passed in 2011 equalized the penalties, and the suits removed previous offenders from the registry.

  Now some lawmakers and organizations are pushing to remove the language from the law entirely. Equality Louisiana cites Democratic state Reps. Ted James of Baton Rouge and John Bel Edwards of Amite as supporters. Meanwhile, Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, and Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, agree the language needs some clarity.

  Last week, East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Councilman John Delgado also called for an ordinance to protect LGBT people in Baton Rouge.

— Alex Woodward


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