So, in 2003, in the case Lawrence vs. Texas, the US Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws still existing (in 2003! What is wrong with people?). The basis of the majority opinion was that the 14th amendment provides the right for adults to engage in consensual, private sexual conduct. However, while the state of Lousiana had to give up parts of its Crimes Against Nature law, it continues to enforce harsher penalties against sex workers convicted of engaging in oral or anal sex for money than those convicted of engaging in vaginal sex. Repeat offenders of SCAN (Solicitation of Crimes Against Nature), among other things, must register as sex offenders. As Jordan Flaherty at Colorlines reports,
People convicted under the Louisiana law must carry a state ID with the words “sex offender” printed below their name. If they have to evacuate because of a hurricane, they must stay in a special shelter for sex offenders that has no separate facilities for men and women. They have to pay a $60 annual registration fee, in addition to $250 to $750 to print and mail postcards to their neighbors every time they move. The post cards must show their names and addresses, and often they are required to include a photo. Failing to register and pay the fees, a separate crime, can carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison
As the article goes on to explain, this law, like so many others, disproportionately hurts people of color and LGBTQ people. It’s a perfect storm of slut-shaming, anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-black ridiculousness. First of all, there’s no good reason the police should be going after sex workers (or people who patronize sex workers either), in the first place, and there’s really no good reason that giving someone a blowjob for money should be punished more harshly than having vaginal intercourse. And putting people on the sex offender list, making everyone assume they’re pedophiles or rapists or people who actually hurt the innocent, making it very difficult for them to keep a job or just to live in peace, is disgusting. Plus, as Cara at The Curvature points out, many people convicted under SCAN have been raped themselves because they are part of marginalized populations or get raped in the prison the state put them in for engaging in sex work, thus defeating the entire goddamn point of sex offender registries, which is to prevent people from being sexually abused:
Because of the way that sex workers are generally made vulnerable to violence, as well as the ways that prisoners face frequent sexual assault, the most callous part of this practice may be the fact that such large numbers of those forced to register as sex offenders for non-violent offenses are victims of sexual violence themselves. Most of the women and men profiled in these articles talk about having been raped, whether as adults or children, whether by clients or family members, by prison guards or fellow prisoners. They must register as sex offenders, be unable to find employment or residences, face harassment and assault, and bear scarlet letters on their identification while at the same time, probably all of their actual rapists do not have to do the same. They have not only been raped, but been given their rapists’ punishments. They have not only been raped, but told that they are like, or perhaps worse than, their actual rapists.
Anyway, a federal civil rights suit is being filed by Women With a Vision and the Center for Constitutional Rights; let’s hope it succeeds, and kudos to those two organizations for working so hard to get these sex workers justice and bringing attention to an ignored issue. A commenter on The Curvature says the Department of Justice is favorable to overturning the law, which is good news too.