The Michigan Senate is making headlines this week for passing a bill that reaffirms the state’s anti-sodomy laws, historically used to prosecute LGBT people.
Well, sort of. The state senate was actually voting on updating Michigan’s animal cruelty law, which unfortunately covers both sex between consenting humans and sex with animals. Cory Doctorow breaks it down in Boingboing:
State Republican Senator Rick Jones has introduced an updated animal cruelty law, SB-0219, which is part of a package of laws aimed at protecting animals from abuse. But it keeps intact the language that bans oral and anal sex between humans.
The bill reads, in part: “A person who commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal is guilty of a felony” — that felony is punishable by 15 years in prison.
Jones says he kept the language intact because he thought that his fellow lawmakers and his constituents would have blocked the animal rights reforms if the bill addressed the rights of humans.
It’s not just the State of Michigan that’s getting into people’s bedrooms, but law enforcement as well. One locality is considering trying a teenager for making child pornography…of himself. Robby Soave has the story in Reason:
A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.
The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges.
These two stories are not isolated incidents from Michigan, but trends in the American legal system with regard to sexual law.
Believe it or not, over a dozen states still have sodomy laws on the books, despite the fact that such bans were ruled unconstitutional in the 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas. Keep in mind that the definition of “sodomy” covers every sexual act besides vaginal intercourse, meaning these laws can pose just as much of a threat to straight people as gay people.
As for teen sexting, Three Rivers is just one of many similar cases across the country. A quick Google search renders recent examples in North Carolina, New York, and Virginia. Just as with the Owen Labrie case I covered last November, governments are now using laws meant to protect children as prosecutorial weapons.
Such is the unintended consequence of giving government broad power to enforce morality: innocent kids and sexual minorities suddenly become suspects. It’s high time states bring their laws in line with both the Constitution and common sense.