Michigan lawmakers have not proposed or passed any new anti-sodomy laws. While the Michigan Senate was putting together a package of bills aimed at fighting animal cruelty, an outdated passage relating to sodomy among humans, and between humans and animals, was left unchanged. This prompted some to speculate that the measure could be used to prosecute consenting adult Michigan citizens for engaging in oral and anal sex with one another. Lawmakers say that was not the intent. Further, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable.
BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, NEWS EDITOR
Michigan lawmakers inadvertently kicked over a proverbial red ant hill recently when approving legal language for “Logan’s Law” which passed in the senate by a vote of 37-1.
What state senators say was supposed to focus on preventing animal abusers from adopting pets has been blown up on social media and numerous news outlets as an anti-sodomy law for humans.
“It is unfortunate that what has gone viral actually has nothing to do with the bill itself,” said Michigan Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) in his Thursday Feb. 11 response to the Boyne City Gazette. “The Senate voted to ban animal abusers from further harming animals. But, instead of focusing on what is important, attention is being drawn to outdated sodomy laws from the 1930s, which have been ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.”
The story went viral after some news outlets—including a handful of gay rights websites—cautioned some of the language in SB 219 could be used to enforce draconian sex laws on Michigan citizens.
The language at the heart of the uproar is contained in section 158 (1) which states, “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 for not more than 15 years, or if the defendant was a sexually delinquent person at the time of the offense, a felony punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.”
Apparently, “abominable and detestable crime against nature” refers to anal and oral sex acts between humans and animals but also humans and humans.
“It’s still on the books in our state and many states even though it is unenforceable and, typically, what happens when lawmakers modify our laws as they were doing with this amendment, they typically would go through and clean it up to … make it constitutional,” Equality Michigan Executive Director Stephanie White told the Boyne City Gazette on Thursday Feb. 11. “At the end of the day, we want all our laws to be constitutional and we don’t need things on our books like this that has been used to target the LGBT community in the past.”
White said she does not believe any of the lawmakers who voted for the senate version of the bill intended to attack gay rights.
“Hopefully, people take as much attention when we take up non-discrimination laws,” she said. “I wish as much attention was given to the real needs of LGBT Michiganders, because we need to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA.)”
The ELCRA prohibits customers from being discriminated against by business owners, and business owners from discriminating against their employees, based on their sex, religion and race but not their sexual orientation.
Logan’s Law is named for Logan the Husky, of Goodells, who was attacked with battery acid and later died from treatments intended to counteract damage from the acid.
“Senate Bill 219, and its companion SB 220, was approved by an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans in the state senate, passing 37-1,” said Schmidt. “The purpose of this bill is to protect animals from known animal abusers. Logan’s Law, as it is referred, would prevent convicted animal abusers from adopting pets.”
He added, “In approving SB 219, the Michigan Senate voted to protect animals from abuse, nothing more.”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Michigan Sen. Rick Jones of the 24th State Senate District, told Towleroad.com writer John Wright that senate lawmakers are afraid to even bring up the sodomy provisions and that doing so could put Logan’s Law in danger of not passing.
However, White said Equality Michigan had been in contact with numerous state representatives who intend to strike the sodomy provision from Logan’s Law before it goes to the governor’s desk.
“They are interested in working on the house version of the bill and how they can make it in line with the Supreme Court decision,” said White.
In 2003, The United States Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional.
Comment was sought from Michigan 105th District Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) on Thursday Feb. 11.
His thoughts will be added to this story once he responds.