Today my office filed a constitutional challenge to Mississippi's "Unnatural Intercourse" statue, Mississippi Code Annotated § 97-29-59, which makes it a crime to engage in oral or anal sex, and the state's insistence people with "Unnatural Intercourse" convictions register as sex offenders in the state.
In 2003, in the landmark case Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), the United States Supreme Court struck down Texas’s sodomy prohibition on due process grounds because the law furthered no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. In striking down the Texas law, the Court resoundingly declared that any criminal statute whose only element is the commission of oral or anal sex is unconstitutional and was not limited to Texas or to laws singling out same-sex couples. Lawrence specifically overruled Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), a prior case upholding Georgia's anti-sodomy law, and thus Lawrence necessarily concluded that Georgia’s law was also unconstitutional.
Fast forward to 2016. Despite the Supreme Court more than a dozen years ago stating that oral and anal sex cannot be the basis of criminal charges, Mississippi continues to require people conviction of such charges to register as sex offenders for at least twenty five years.
Many states still have these unenforceable anti-sodomy laws on the books, but no one can bring a challenge to strike them down because the states are not enforcing them. Except Mississippi. This case is a rare example of a state still trying to criminalize oral and anal sex despite the Supreme Court's clear command. But it also presents the rare opportunity to challenge one of these laws head on with plaintiffs who are directly affected by it.
I'm excited to work on this case with the wonderful attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights (where I worked for five years) and Rob mcDuff and Jake Howard of the esteemed McDuff & Byrd in Jackson, Mississippi.