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Groups Ask Court to Remove Individuals Convicted of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation from Sex Offender Registry

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Louisiana Legislature Changed “Scarlet Letter Law” in June for Cases Going Forward

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August 10, 2011, New Orleans – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), police misconduct attorney Andrea J. Ritchie, Esq., the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Law Clinic, and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP argued in federal court for a remedy for individuals who must continue to register as sex offenders for periods of 15 years to life because of a conviction of Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) despite recent legislation that removes the registration requirement for individuals convicted of CANS after August 15, 2011.

Plaintiffs in Doe v. Jindal have been forced to register as sex offenders simply because they were charged, prosecuted, and convicted of offering oral or anal sex for compensation under a more recent provision of Louisiana’s 205-year-old Crime Against Nature statute rather than under its prostitution statute, which does not require sex offender registration. Plaintiffs argued that the harsher punishment, which has traditionally been meted out to those convicted of CANS rather than prostitution, results solely from moral disapproval of sex acts historically associated with homosexuality, and is thus unconstitutional.

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.

Attorneys argued before Judge Martin Feldman that nine individuals convicted of CANS prior to the legislature’s removal of the offense from the list of those requiring registration as a sex offender earlier this summer should no longer be mandated to register as sex offenders.

“We welcome this change in the law, which means that these unconstitutional and unfair conditions will no longer be imposed on people who are convicted of a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation in the future,” said Alexis Agathocleous, staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “But the injustice still persists for those with old CANS convictions. Our clients – along with hundreds of others – remain registered as sex offenders.  We are here today because they, too, should receive the benefit of this change in the law, and be removed from the sex offender registry.”

Said Andrea Ritchie, co-counsel in Doe v. Jindal, “The roughly 400 people who remain on the sex offender registry solely as a result of a Crime Against Nature by Solicitation charge are largely poor Black women, including transgender women, and gay men who have themselves experienced violence and discrimination their whole lives, and they deserve a second chance.”

Deon Haywood, Executive Director of Women with a Vision, said, “The women and transgender women of our NO Justice Project live with the scarlet letter of ‘sex offender’ on their driver’s license, some of them for over 20 years. Our clients are mothers, daughters, veterans, and more. Yet, they live on the fringes of the community, disconnected from many support systems, putting them at risk for violence, reincarceration and other harms. It is time for them to experience walking their kids to school and gainful employment, and to have access to safe housing without judgment. Simply put, it’s time for the State of Louisiana to give them justice.”

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. WWAV accomplishes 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.