Man forced to register as a sex offender for consensual sex. Now he’s fighting to strike down archaic sodomy law

Nick Duffy

An Idaho man who was forced to register as a sex offender for having consensual sex is suing to get the state’s defunct sodomy law struck down.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court of Idaho, argues the state is violating the man’s rights by continuing to have the defunct “crimes against nature” statute on the books, more than 20 years after the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws across the US.

The man, identified only as John Doe in the suit, was convicted in another state for a consensual sodomy offence more than 20 years ago, prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

After his recent release from prison in Idaho for an unrelated non-sexual offence, Doe was told that his past conviction requires him to register as a sex offender – more than two decades after the law barring “crimes against nature” was ruled invalid.

Idaho is one of four states that continues to enforce its sodomy law by requiring people with convictions to join the sexual offender registry.

Sodomy law used to force man onto sex offenders’ register.

Doe is being supported by American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, arguing that the man is suffering “suffers significant restrictions on his public and personal life” because of the sex offender status required for his “out-of-state conviction more than 20 years ago for having oral sex”.

Matthew Strugar, one of the attorneys representing Doe, said in a statement: “More than 17 years ago, the Supreme Court declared homophobic laws like Idaho’s crime against nature statute unconstitutional. 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 criminalise those sex acts, it cannot force people with decades-old oral sex convictions to register as sex offenders.”

After his recent release from prison in Idaho for an unrelated non-sexual offence, Doe was told that his past conviction requires him to register as a sex offender
After his recent release from prison in Idaho for an unrelated non-sexual offence, Doe was told that his past conviction requires him to register as a sex offender

ACLU of Idaho legal director Ritchie Eppink told The Progressive: “The fact that Idaho is still enforcing it shows they’re either ignorant of Lawrence [the 2003 Supreme Court ruling] or they’re malevolent.”

The lawsuit cites data suggesting that nearly nine in 10 adults have engaged in oral or anal sex which would be banned under the statue, arguing that enforcing the provisions effectively “makes criminals of hundreds of thousands of Idahoans”.

Idaho man has struggled to get a job due to sex offender status

It contends: “Idaho’s sex offender registration law places numerous requirements upon the public and personal lives of registrants. Registrants’ pictures and personal information are displayed on a publicly-accessible state website.

“Registrants are forced to relinquish a trove of personal information and face restrictions on where they can live and even wander.

“John Doe has been forced onto the Idaho sex offender registry for a conviction from before Lawrence under another state’s crime against nature statute. He is subject to sex offence registration restrictions pursuant to a facially unconstitutional statute.

“He suffers severely under the sex offender label, which imposes a significant barrier to finding employment and participating in his community, and involves the state in the daily management of his life.”

The case is not the first time Idaho’s deployment of sodomy laws has led to outcry, with the lawsuit noting that the same statute “was the primary legal tool for the [1950s]  ‘Boys of Boise’ affair – one of the most virulent anti-gay witch hunts in American history”.