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Court Allows Challenge to Louisiana’s Discriminatory and Archaic “Crime Against Nature by Solicitation” Law to Proceed

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press@ccrjustice.org

September 8, 2011, New York – Plaintiffs challenging the discriminatory requirement that they must register as sex offenders because of a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) conviction were vindicated yesterday when the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to dismiss their lawsuit against a number of Louisiana state officials. Plaintiffs in Doe v. Jindal who were charged, prosecuted, and convicted of offering oral sex for compensation have been forced to register as sex offenders under a provision of Louisiana’s 205-year-old Crime Against Nature statute, rather than under its prostitution statute, which punishes the same conduct but does not require sex offender registration.

CCR Attorney Alexis Agathocleous said, “We are pleased that the court has vindicated our clients and allowed this challenge to go forward. Judge Feldman has agreed that our clients have raised serious constitutional questions about the discriminatory punishment meted out under the old Crime Against Nature by Solicitation statute, and has agreed that they deserve their day in court. Our clients have been labeled as sex offenders simply because they were convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation rather than Prostitution – which encompasses exactly the same conduct. In a significant victory for our clients, the court will now scrutinize their claim that this distinction is unconstitutional because it results only from moral disapproval of sex acts associated with homosexuality.”   

Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women with a Vision, said, “The women and transgender women of our NO Justice Project have been living with the scarlet letter of ‘sex offender’ status for years. Our clients are mothers, daughters, and veterans. Yet, because of this law, they have been forced to live on the fringes of the community, disconnected from many support systems. It’s time for the State of Louisiana to give them justice, and we are deeply gratified that the court will hear their case.”

The Louisiana legislature recently equalized the penalties between CANS and prostitution, and will no longer require sex offender registration for those convicted of CANS in future cases. But those with old convictions must still register.
“The Court has recognized that the individuals who showed tremendous courage in coming forward to challenge mandatory sex offender registration based solely on a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation conviction have made a plausible claim that this requirement has no  rational basis, violates their constitutional rights, and is fundamentally unfair," said police misconduct attorney Andrea J. Ritchie, co-counsel on the case. "They are now one step closer to hopefully being in the same position as those convicted since the legislature corrected the disparity between the statutes, and to being free of this outdated, discriminatory and disparate punishment for a minor nonviolent offense.”
For more information about the federal lawsuit challenging this law, visit www.ccrjustice.org/crime-against-nature.

Police misconduct attorney Andrea J. Ritchie, Esq., the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Law Clinic, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP are co-counsel in the case.
 
 
The mission of Women with a Vision is to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being. We accomplish this through relentless advocacy, health education, supportive services, and community-based participatory research. Visit http://wwav-no.org/.
 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.