Constitutional law scholars are shaking their heads at a vote in the Louisiana House. HB12, a bill to repeal Louisiana’s unconstitutional “crimes against nature” law failed by a vote of 27-66.

I looked at those who voted against it and among them are 16 lawyers. It certainly seems those 16 either didn’t do well in constitutional law or simply just do not care what their vote says.

For those who did not get the value of sitting through two semesters of constitutional law (or the 16 legislators who were apparently absent during that class), I thought it might be helpful to understand what the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled are fundamental rights.

These are rights that you and I may take for granted, things like the right to marry from Loving v. Virginia; the right to procreate from Skinner v. Oklahoma; the right to raise your kids as you see fit from Troxel v. Granville.

The U.S. Supreme Court (and without getting deeply into law, just know that they are the supreme court of the land in the United States) also has ruled that sexual conduct between consenting adults is a fundamental right. They said so in Lawrence v. Texas, and they noted in that ruling that all such “crime against nature” laws were unconstitutional. That ruling means the laws cannot be enforced and if a local jurisdiction attempts to enforce an unconstitutional law (as ours did), they will overturn the conviction (luckily ours didn’t let it go that far).

There’s an argument to be made that when someone is arrested or otherwise inconvenienced by an unconstitutional law they have grounds to seek damages against the entity that harmed them through an act that they knew was unconstitutional.

I don’t know what bothers me more: the message this sends to those outside Louisiana (and inside for that matter) that the rule of law doesn’t matter at all here, or the hypocrisy of these legislators, many of whom just want to “make government smaller” and “get it off the backs of everyday folks.”

Apparently they just want to make the government small enough to fit in people’s bedrooms and off people’s backs just long enough to advise them on “appropriate” coupling.

To the 16 lawyers who voted against HB12, I just have one question: Do you really not understand constitutional law or are you just afraid to do what is not just legally correct, but symbolically right?

Susan Nelson

consultant/law student

Baton Rouge