NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Nine people, including a grandmother, a mother of four, and three transgendered women, challenged a state law that requires people convicted of having oral or anal sex for money to register as sex offenders. The plaintiffs say the law is discriminatory. Penalties in Louisiana for prostitution involving conventional sexual intercourse do not require sex-offender registration, no matter how many times a person is convicted.
All nine plaintiffs have been convicted of a “crime against nature.”
Registering as a sex offender causes humiliation and puts at risk people’s employment, housing, neighborhood affiliation, and puts them at risk of physical attack, according to the federal complaint.
The plaintiffs – eight women, three of them transgendered, and a man – sued Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General James Caldwell and other officials, including police, parole and Motor Vehicle chiefs.
“In 1982, Louisiana expanded its crime against nature statute to specifically criminalize ‘solicitation by a human being of another with the intent to engage in any unnatural carnal copulation for compensation,'” the complaint states. “In doing so, Louisiana became the first and only state in the nation to adopt a freestanding statute that specifically criminalizes offering or agreeing to engage in oral or anal sex for a fee.”
The complaint adds: “The only possible explanation for the inclusion of the crime against nature by solicitation statute in the registry law is that it targets non-procreative sex acts traditionally associated with homosexuality.”
Forty percent of sex offenders in Orleans Parish are on the registry as crime against nature by solicitation offenders, according to the complaint.
“The Louisiana Legislature recently equalized the penalties associated with a first conviction for prostitution and a first conviction of crime against nature by solicitation. However, the statutory penalties for a second prostitution conviction and a second crime against nature by solicitation conviction differ in critical ways, thereby subjecting individuals convicted of allegedly soliciting oral or anal intercourse to far harsher punishment than those convicted of soliciting vaginal intercourse,” the complaint states.
The amendment made it no longer necessary to register as a sex offender for a first conviction of a crime against nature, but a second offense still requires registry. “Conversely, no number of convictions for prostitution requires registration as a sex offender, and never has.”
Plaintiff “Audrey Doe is a grandmother in her mid-50s.” She was convicted of crime against nature by solicitation on at least two occasions. She says that “since her release from prison, Audrey Doe has spent hundreds of dollars to comply with the registry law’s fees and notification requirements. These expenses have included the cost of printing and mailing notification postcards to neighbors and the fee for placing an announcement in the newspaper disclosing her registration as a sex offender.”
She says that after sending out her sex offender notification, someone threw rocks through her windows.
“On another occasion, a group of youths threw rocks at Audrey Doe and yelled at her to ‘suck [their] dicks.'” (Brackets in original).
Plaintiff “Becca Doe is a mother of four in her mid-50s.” She has three convictions for a crime against nature. After her first conviction she “was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment with hard labor and required to register as a sex offender for 15 years.”
Another plaintiff “has only a single crime against nature by solicitation conviction, but because her conviction precedes recent legislative amendments, she continues to be subject to the registration requirements. Other plaintiffs have multiple convictions of crime against nature by solicitation, and as a result must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.”
The plaintiffs say registering as a sex offender affects “every aspect of their lives, including housing, employment, travel, access to identification documents, family life, and evacuation in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
“For example, registrants must carry a state driver’s license or non-drivers’ identification document which brands them as a sex offender in bright orange capital letters. Like individuals on the registry as a result of having committed offenses involving children, violence, or lack of consent, individuals convicted of mere solicitation of oral or anal sex for compensation must disclose that fact that they are registered as a sex offender to neighbors, landlords, employers, schools, parks, community centers, and churches.
“The requirement that individuals convicted of crime against nature by solicitation appear on the sex offender database, known as the Sex Offender and Child Predator Registry … has had devastating consequences for plaintiffs. For example, many plaintiffs have been unable to secure work or housing as a result of their status as sex offenders. Audrey Doe has been physically threatened by neighbors. Eve Doe has been refused residential drug treatment because providers will not accept sex offenders.”
Seventy-five percent of people convicted of a crime against nature in Orleans Parish are women, and 79 percent are black, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs add: “Requiring individuals convicted solely as crime against nature by solicitation to register as sex offenders serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever. Plaintiffs pose no danger to anyone. They have not been convicted of any criminal offense involving force, use of a weapon, coercion, lack of consent, or a victim who is a minor.”
The plaintiffs want the law enjoined as unconstitutional, and want their names expunged from the registry. They are represented by William Quigley with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.