Australia’s infamous “crimes against nature” laws, which oppressed homosexual men by outlawing anal sex, were repealed decades ago. Over the past few years, there have been moves in several parts of country to facilitate the removal of entries from the criminal records of those convicted.
Meanwhile in America, several states have been slower to move with the times. Conservative governments in some states have not only refused to repeal homophobic laws, but are intent on introducing new laws banning oral and anal sex for all people.
In 2003, the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v Texas ruled that anti-sodomy laws, which ban consensual anal sex between adults, are a violation of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees citizenship and equality under the law.
Despite the ruling, a dozen states have retained such laws – resisting all attempts to remove them from the lawbooks. Michigan is one of those states.
Conservative politicians have defiantly spoken against such “perverse… man made” (anti-sodomy) laws, which they say contravene “God’s laws” – pondering how to get around the Supreme Court ruling.
Now, lawmakers in Michigan have got their chance.
Getting Around the Supreme Court Ruling
Last week, in a 37-1 vote, Michigan passed Senate Bill 219 which ostensibly seeks to prevent animal cruelty.
The package of four bills, known commonly as Logan’s Law, came about after an incident in 2012, where a pet husky was blinded and died after being attacked with battery acid.
This atrocious act of animal cruelty caused public outrage and triggered legislative action.
But what does animal cruelty have to do with banning sex acts between consenting adults?
Republican State Senator Rick Jones introduced the bill, which includes an update to the language of Michigan’s existing ban on sodomy to include references to animals.
The bill states that “a person who commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal is guilty of a felony”, prescribing a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment.
Michigan’s LGBTQI community is outraged by the wording of the bill, with Matthew Rodriguez from Mic. writing:
‘The ban was attached to an anti-bestiality bill, part of a package of bills called “Logan’s Law” the state Senate is looking to pass to protect pets from abusive owners. By adding the words “with mankind” to a clause outlawing bestiality it not only outlawed sodomy and bestiality, but equated the two.’
The “crime against nature” is of course sodomy, which is defined by the leading US dictionary, Merriam Websters, as “anal or oral copulation with a member of the same or opposite sex, or copulation with an animal”. It has been argued that, if the bill becomes law, all acts of anal and oral sex will become serious crimes in Michigan.
Michigan lawmakers claim that the bill is not unconstitutional because it applies to everybody. And Senator Jones told New Civil Rights Movement claims that changing the bill’s wording would spell its failure, stating:
“The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done.
“Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional.”
Many say that the Senator’s claim is nonsense – the general consensus being that conservatives saw an opportunity to use public outrage over an unrelated incident to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling against anti-sodomy laws, and leapt on it.
Civil rights groups and representatives of the LGBTQI community say they will continue to lobby for the bill’s amendment.