It is easy to sanctify policies or identities by the deaths of victims. It is less appealing, but morally more urgent, to understand the actions of the perpetrators. The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander.
It is tempting to say that a Nazi murderer is beyond the pale of understanding…Yet to deny a human being his human character is to render ethics impossible.
To yield to this temptation, to find other people to be inhuman, is to take a step toward, not away from, the Nazi position. To find other people incomprehensible is to abandon the search for understanding, and thus to abandon history.
A full decade after the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws as unconstitutional violations of a right to privacy, the East Baton Rouge sheriff’s department was continuing to enforce the state’s version of the statute. Not only that, but it was going out of its way to do so, setting up stings to find and arrest gay men for the crime of having sex—even though the district attorney had pointedly refuse to prosecute those cases.
Tim Murphy, Mother Jones.
Later in his post, Murphy writes, “Keeping anti-sodomy statutes on the books serves no real function, since the crimes are impossible to prosecute. Mostly, the laws’ supporters just don’t want their states to legally acknowledge that there’s something OK about homosexuality.”
That’s being much too kind to laws against ”unnatural carnal copulation" as Louisiana calls them.
The idea that invalid but still-on-the-books anti-sodomy laws serve no real function is exactly what’s belied by Murphy’s story and the reporting of the Baton Rouge Advocate, which first publicized the arrests.
Their function is to provide cover for local law enforcement to carry out a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the gay community. As the East Baton Rouge sheriff’s spox says, “This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana Legislature.” They’re well aware that courts have struck the statute down, but they’re intent on being assholes about it until the Legislature changes the law.
Being arrested has real consequences, even if charges from the local DA aren’t forthcoming. The handcuffs are real, the mugshots published on websites/local rags are real, and the feeling of intimidation is real.
It’s true that anti-sodomy laws don’t serve a legitimate function, but they carry very real consequences that go beyond a statement of disapproval from the state government.
This is supposing the present race of kings in the world to have had an honorable origin: whereas it is more than probable, that, could we take off the dark covering of antiquity and trace them to their first rise, we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners of pre-eminence in subtilty obtained him the title of chief among plunderers; and who by increasing in power and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety by frequent contributions. Yet his electors could have no idea of giving hereditary right to his descendants, because such a perpetual exclusion of themselves was incompatible with the free and restrained principles they professed to live by…. Perhaps the disorders which threatened, or seemed to threaten, on the decease of a leader and the choice of a new one (for elections among ruffians could not be very orderly) induced many at first to favour hereditary pretensions; by which means it happened, as it hath happened since, that what at first was submitted to as a convenience was afterwards claimed as a right.