Republicans in Louisiana are fighting a bill preventing animal abuse for an unexpected reason: They think it will lead the state to strike down its outdated sodomy ban.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized by the Supreme Court in the groundbreaking 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, 11 states still have laws on the books penalizing anal intercourse, and in eight, those regulations apply to both queer and straight people.
Louisiana has repeatedly defended its unconstitutional anti-sodomy law. As recently as 2014, the state’s House of Representative voted 27 to 67 in favor of keeping the anti-LGBTQ dictum intact.
Conservatives in the Pelican State are so dead set on preserving the outdated policy that they’re opposing unrelated legislation on bestiality in fear it would erode the anti-sodomy codes. A bill sponsored by State Senator J.P. Morrell, State Bill 236, would strengthen animal abuse laws by disentangling existing regulations prohibiting interspecies intercourse and anal sex.
To wit, the current “crimes against nature” statute is understood to include both bestiality and homosexuality. Morrell’s legislation, however, would make sexual abuse perpetrated against an animal its own law.
It would also fine individuals who engage in animal sex trafficking.
While the Humane Society of the United States reports that six states have expanded the scope of their legislation criminalizing bestiality over the past three years, conservatives are trying to block the legislation because they believe it’s a covert attempt to strike down the sodomy prohibition.
“This bill was written because the far left wants to undermine our other laws that protect family and traditional values that the people of Louisiana hold dear,” said Sen. Ryan Gatti during committee debate, as the Associated Press reports.
Gatti, who was one of 10 Republicans to vote against the bill on Wednesday, called it “a Trojan horse.”
The Louisiana Family Forum opposes the law on similar grounds. Gene Mills, a spokesperson for the conservative advocacy group, told the AP that the existing “crimes against nature” law should remain untouched because it accurately represents the “community morals” of the conservative state.
Although Morrell does oppose Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute, he asserted the bill at hand is completely unrelated, calling the concerns a “conspiracy theory.”
“There’s no evidence that the bill does that,” the Democratic lawmaker said.
The Humane Society’s Director of Animal Cruelty Policy Leighann Lassiter noted that the controversy over SB 236 is unprecedented among the legislatures that have considered redrafting their bestiality codes. Two other states are weighing updates to their animal cruelty policies.
“This has been the first time we’ve seen one hint of opposition to these bills,” she said. “It’s quite surprising.”
Oddly enough, the hand-wringing over Louisiana’s already invalid sodomy laws wasn’t the only complaint about SB 236. In a bizarre exchange, Republican House Rep. Valarie Hodges voiced her concern that the law’s passage would prevent people from being housed in correctional centers where animals are also keptor that they wouldn’t be allowed near food.
“There are no vegan prisons,” Hodges said during debate.
Morrell, though, claimed that he would rewrite the legislation to make it clear that people legally “can be around food.”
Despite the conservative criticism, SB 236 survived committee on Wednesday and will now be heard on the House floor for a full vote in the chambers. The legislation already passed the Senate by a vote of 25 to 10.
Photo via Leszek.Leszczynski/Flickr