Idaho man sues over state’s anti-sodomy law

Rebecca Boone
Associated Press

Boise, Idaho – An Idaho man represented by a coalition of civil rights attorneys is suing the state’s attorney general over Idaho’s so-called “infamous crime against nature” law, which makes it illegal to have oral or anal sex.

The man, who uses the pseudonym “John Doe,” filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, saying his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to register as a sex offender earlier this year because he was convicted in another state more than two decades ago of having oral sex. Doe said the state law was rendered invalid by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a similar law in Texas violated constitutional protections under the 14th Amendment.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Texas case directly applied to states with anti-sodomy laws that are directed at gay people, including Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. But other states, including Idaho, have laws that criminalize some penetrative sex acts between adults without specifying the genders of the participants. Doe’s attorneys say Idaho’s law is homophobic.

“More than 17 years ago, the Supreme Court declared homophobic laws like Idaho’s Crime Against Nature statute unconstitutional,” said Matthew Strugar, one of the lawyers representing Doe. “Idaho ignores that ruling and continues to demand people who were convicted of nothing more than having oral or anal sex to register as sex offenders. Just as the state cannot criminalize those sex acts, it cannot force people with decades-old oral sex convictions to register as sex offenders.”

According to the lawsuit, Doe was released from an Idaho prison earlier this year after serving time for a crime that didn’t require him to register as a sex offender. But once he was released, his Idaho Department of Correction caseworker told him he’d have to register as a sex offender in the state because of the previous crime against nature conviction roughly 20 years ago in another state.

That case happened before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, and occurred in a state that didn’t require people convicted of crimes against nature to register as sex offenders. Doe pleaded guilty to the charge, admitting to having oral sex with his wife.

Forcing Doe to register as a sex offender in Idaho serves no legitimate purpose, his attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

“The mandate that he be subject to the harsh requirements of the sex offender registry law is unjustifiable and unconstitutional,” they wrote in the case.

Doe is asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional and prohibit the state from forcing people convicted of “crimes against nature” to register as sex offenders.

Idaho’s law also bars bestiality. Doe is not asking the court to remove that portion of the statute.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who is named as a defendant in the case along with other state officials, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the Boise law firm Nevin, Benjamin, McKay and Bartlett are representing Doe along with Strugar.