When is it okay for a state to intervene in the private lives of its citizens and put a prison sentence on sodomy? Never, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which struck down the sodomy ban in Texas and 13 other states. Yet that’s exactly what Michigan lawmakers did this week when the state Senate, and then the House, passed an animal rights bill, which despite numerous updates, kept antiquated sodomy language—banning anal sex between humans—intact.
The bill, according to the Detroit Free Press, was part of a piece of important animal rights legislation known as Logan’s Law, which enforces background checks on pet adoptions and bars convicted animal abusers from adopting another animal within 5 years of their sentence. The bill also waives a $10 fee for animal shelters to access the Michigan State Police’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool database. Unfortunately the bill does not apply to pet stores.
Logan’s Law came about following the case of Matt Falk’s husky named Logan, who was blinded and eventually died after being attacked with battery acid. Falk pursued legislation after his dog’s passing.
Yet the bill, which contains numerous edits and updates, failed to remove language that makes sodomy between humans a criminal act.
The law now reads: “A person who commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 15 years.”
Michigan is among a number of states that still have anti-sodomy legislation, despite the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling. In 2012, Kansas upheld its Statute 21-3505, otherwise known as the “criminal sodomy” statute, a law that prohibits same-sex couples from specific sex acts. Yet unlike many states, Michigan’s law does not specifically reference same-sex couples, meaning no single group is being targeted according to their sexual orientation.
But let us be clear: a bill that infringes on the rights of not only homosexual Americans, but on the rights of all Americans is still problematic, especially since our federal government ruled that state bans on sodomy were unconstitutional. Effectively, the law of the United States says that the government cannot use moral grounds to regulate what consenting adults do in the bedroom.
Yet despite the bill’s clause being in breach of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Republican Senator Rick Jones was not about to touch it. He said, according to The New Civil Rights Movement, “The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional…. if you focus on it, people just go ballistic.”
Logistically speaking, refocusing the bill’s reference to sodomy between human and animal, would only require the extraction of four words.
That is the removal of “either with mankind or” to make the sentence read, “A person who commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature with any animal is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 15 years.”
Said Jones, “If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No.”
Would removing these four words really make the entire bill unpalatable? If so, that certainly sends a powerful message about the leanings of the Michigan state legislature.
Though the law is unenforceable according to Lawrence v. Texas, promulgating formal legal language that makes sodomy a crime perpetuates intolerance and hate at the state level. More importantly, it wraps that intolerance and hate with the slick coating of animal welfare, which is clearly all too easy for some to swallow.