Eight Years After Lawrence, Sodomy Laws Are Alive and Kicking

Published: February 16, 2011

In 2003, the LGBT community rejoiced after the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas, but in Louisiana, sodomy laws are still alive and kicking in 2011.

Lawrence struck down a Texas sodomy law and held that sexual intimacy at home is constitutionally protected under due process and privacy principles. Coming seventeen years after Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court’s seething antigay decision that upheld a Georgia sodomy law, Lawrence felt like a sea change. Laws actually criminalizing the community, many people assumed, were a relic of the past. And accordingly, the LGBT rights movement shifted gears: litigation, lobbying, advocacy, and resources in the years since Lawrence have overwhelmingly focused on civil institutions such as marriage and visibility in the mainstream media. In short, the mainstream LGBT community stopped talking about criminal justice.

But as a federal civil rights lawsuit filed this week in Louisiana illustrates, this may have been hasty. Louisiana’s own archaic sodomy law is having a devastating effect on hundreds of people – principally low income women of color, including transgender women. The promise of Lawrence, it would seem, has not been fulfilled at the margins of the LGBT community.

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