Lawmakers make progress towards strengthening bestiality bill

Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, presented hs anti-bestiality bill to a House committee on...
Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, presented hs anti-bestiality bill to a House committee on Wednesday. (Photo by Photo by Drew White/LSU Manship School News Service)
Updated: Apr. 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM CDT
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By Drew White, LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE -- State legislators made more progress Wednesday toward strengthening a state law that bans sex with animals.

The House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee passed the bill 14-0 after much debate, sending it to the House floor. The bill, written by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, was approved by the Senate earlier this month.

The bill aims to modernize and clarify the law on bestiality in Louisiana.

"The law is very archaic and doesn't address any modern implications like video voyeurism and doesn't address soliciting animals for sex on the Internet," Morrell told the House committee.

"What we seek to do is take bestiality out of its current problematic section of the law and give it its own clear concise statute that allows law enforcement to prosecute individuals that do this under the fullest extent of the law," he said.

The bill would create a separate statute against sexually abusing an animal rather than wrapping the offense into the section of existing law that describes various "crimes against nature," including sodomy.

Bestiality is already illegal under that provision in the current law. But Morrell argued that a loophole exists where "unless an animal is actually damaged you don't reach the threshold of animal cruelty."

Some conservative politicians have opposed Morrell's bill out of fear of repealing the state's ban on sodomy.

Still, the Senate passed his bill by a 25-10 margin.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, argued on Wednesday that the current law was effective and questioned the constitutionality of Morrell's bill because it might be considered overly broad.

"Fifteen people have been prosecuted recently, as recently as last year, for bestiality," Hodges said. "Why are we making a whole new law?"

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, objected to recent national coverage of the bill that implied that bestiality is still legal in Louisiana, calling it "a mistaken misnomer."

Morrell's bill also would prohibit the filming, distributing or possessing of pornographic images of a person and an animal engaged in sexual activity.

"There have been five states that have adopted the same language as this in the past year. Julia Breaux-Melancon, the director of the Louisiana Humane Society, said. Texas was most recent,"

Under the proposed law, an offender would not be able to harbor, own, possess, or exercise control of any animal and could not reside at any household or place of occupation where an animal is present.

The bill also would require offenders to undergo psychological treatment and evaluation.

Mills, of the Louisiana Family Forum, also opposed the bill, arguing that it was vague and that the current statute had been upheld both in court system and the court of public opinion.

"Louisiana's current crime against nature statute expresses a moral turpitude section of the law - that's a legal concept in Louisiana and the U.S. that refers to acts of behavior that gravely violate the sensible standards of the community," said Mills. "We think it communicates something significant in its current section."

Morrell responded, however, that Louisiana "crime-against-nature statute is problematic because it is in violation against Lawrence v. Texas that deemed sodomy laws to be unconstitutional."

In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court found in 2003 that a Texas statute banning consenting homosexual adults from engaging in sexual acts violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

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