Human rights group suing state over ‘discriminating' prostitution law

by Heather Miller

State's 200-year-old "crimes against nature by solicitation" law challenged.

A New York-based human rights group believes Louisiana should be a state in which all prostitutes are treated equal.

The Associated Press reports that the nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state's "crimes against nature by solicitation" law, which requires all persons convicted twice of receiving money for oral or anal sex to register as a sex offender.

According to attorney Andrea Ritchie, co-counsel for the anonymous plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the 200-year-old state law is creating hardships for gays, transsexuals and poor and minority women who make a living selling their bodies.

Ritchie points out that 97 percent of women who are registered sex offenders in the state have been convicted of "crimes against nature:" One woman convicted of the crime cannot take her daughter to day care now because of the sex offender designation that restricts the amount of contact she can have with minors.

Laura Maggi writes in The Times-Picayune that the state Legislature last session altered the penalties for crimes against nature by solicitation, lessening a first-time conviction to misdemeanor status - the same as a first-time prostitution conviction:

Louisiana is the only state that has separate laws depending on what kind of sex acts a prostitute engages in, according to the lawsuit. Prostitution can cover any kind of sex for money. But people accused of offering oral or anal sex for money can be charged with "crime against nature by solicitation."

The lawsuit ... describes the difficulty the plaintiffs have experienced obtaining work and finding housing because they are registered sex offenders. In Louisiana, the driver's license of a registered sex offender is inscribed with those words in bright orange letters. Registered sex offenders appear in a state database and must notify neighbors of their legal status.

The state Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the case because it has not yet received the lawsuit, according to AP.

Read more on the lawsuit and the "crimes against nature by solicitation" statute here.