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Prostitutes Must Register as Sex Offenders?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

A 206-year-old Louisiana law that punishes prostitutes who engage in anal or oral sex by forcing them to register as sex offenders has come under fire in a federal lawsuit.

When every other state defines a sex offender, prostitute is not among the usual explanations. Louisiana, however, has decided that engaging in anal or oral sex is a crime against nature, and thus anyone who engages in either activity in exchange for money is a sex offender, required by law to register. "Normal" prostitution is exempt.

Though the law seems a bit homophobic and out of date, a crime against nature is considered to be so heinous in Louisiana, that the police actively arrest its violators. Nearly 40 percent of all registered sex offenders in New Orleans are in the registry because of a crime against nature, The Times-Picayune notes.

Louisiana law requires sex offenders to appear in a database, notify neighbors and employers, and carry a drivers' license emblazoned with the words, the paper further reports. These requirements have kept many a prostitute sex offender from finding housing or a more socially acceptable job.

Is this legal?

In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in a well-known gay-rights case, Lawrence v. Texas, that criminal statutes that legislate only oral and anal sex further "no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual." In other words, states can't pass criminal laws that single out oral and anal sex, because it infringes on citizens' constitutional right to privacy.

Louisiana law did not change its law after this decision, and as described in the plaintiffs' complaint, the state legislature continued to update the statute without making proper revisions. In fact, the Louisiana Crime Against Nature statute did not even change after the Louisiana Supreme Court indicated that the provision was unconstitutional.

Under Louisiana law, every other crime requiring sex offender registration involves some sort of force, violence or children, reports The Wall Street Journal. When you combine this fact, with the case law, the likelihood that the Louisiana prostitute sex offender law is constitutional starts to dwindle.

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