Despite the headlines, Michigan was not suddenly making sodomy illegal with SB 219. What the Michigan lawmakers were trying to do is pass a package of bills to protect animals from torture. The set of bills is coined Logan’s Law. The bipartisan package includes bills introduced, according to the Detroit Free Press, after a March, 2012, incident in which a Michigan husky named Logan was blinded and then died after being burnt by acid. The bills aimed to create a way to limit people from adopting animals through shelters only to abuse them, and to eliminate any possible semantics loophole through which an animal torturer could avoid prosecution. Logan’s Law was not meant to have any consequence either way for or against anal or oral sex acts.
The anti-sodomy law has been a part of Michigan law since 1931 and last amended in 1952, according to the history record.
What people are upset over is that, while changing the verbiage of the original law, the lawmakers have opted not to remove the reference to human sexual activity.
Senate Bill 219 was first introduced by Republican Sen. Rick Jones. SB 219, part of the Logan’s Law package, is self described in the following way.
“A bill to amend 1931 PA 328, entitled ‘The Michigan penal code,’ by amending sections 49, 50, 50b, and 158 (MCL 750.49, 750.50, 750.50b, and 750.158), section 49 as amended by 2006 PA 129, section 50 as amended by 2007 PA 152, and section 50b as amended by 2008 PA 339.”
In Act 328 of 1931, there exists Chapter XXV, which is entitled, “CRIME AGAINST NATURE OR SODOMY,” and it already contains, and has contained for several decades, section 158 (750.158), the section that the current controversy is based upon.
It currently states the following as law in Michigan.
“Any person who shall commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 15 years, or if such person was at the time of the said offense a sexually delinquent person, may be punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for an indeterminate term, the minimum of which shall be 1 day and the maximum of which shall be life.”
Here is how the law was going to change if SB 219 was passed as suggested.
People are upset because they figure that as long as section 158, the anti-sodomy law in Michigan, is being revised, the term “with mankind” should also be struck from the Michigan Penal Code.
The problem was that, given the varied opinions on sexual activity between conservatives and liberals, such an amendment could jeopardize the whole bill. It could create a separate issue to debate in the passing of an otherwise completely bipartisan bill. The Senate bills passed 37-1, after the bill was in the works for four years.
Michigan is one of more than a dozen states that still have sodomy bans left over from a long-passed era. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas declared such laws unconstitutional.
“‘The minute I cross that line and I start talking about the other stuff, I won’t even get another hearing. It’ll be done,” Senator Jones told the New Civil Rights Movement, speaking of eliminating the human sodomy phrase from section 158 with SB 219. “Nobody wants to touch it. I would rather not even bring up the topic, because I know what would happen. You’d get both sides screaming and you end up with a big fight that’s not needed because it’s unconstitutional.'”
The sodomy law already exists. It’s already on the books. Defendants of this part of Logan’s Law believed that if striking “with mankind” was part of SB 219, this powerful law aimed at preventing another tragedy like what happened to Logan would be delayed or even struck down entirely due to the heated nature of discussions about sex. The defenders of SB 219 point out that the Lawrence v. Texas ruling already rendered that part of the law unconstitutional.
Michigan lawmakers were not trying to pass a new bill that would make anal and oral sex illegal and a felony, contrary to the headlines, which even have used the Flint water crisis as a means of presenting SB 219 as a bill of “ridiculous right-wingedness.”
— Sarah Burris (@SarahBurris) February 8, 2016
By slashing the phrase “with mankind” from the law that has been on the books for just less than a century, SB 219 risked going from being a bipartisan bill to a partisan bill, and wither and die in Lansing, supporters argued. As SB 219 was written, lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, are trying to require nonprofit animal shelters to run a criminal background check on anyone attempting to adopt an animal from a shelter. They are also trying to bypass a fee that shelters would need to pay to search the animal abuse registry before adopting. In all, if these bills are passed, it will be a tougher state for people to abuse animals in.
Because of Logan’s horrific abuse, Logan’s family, Matt and Nancy Falk, made it their mission to get Michigan Senate bills 219, 220 & and House Bills 4353, 4355 passed into law, according to a very popular Change.org petition favoring Logan’s Law.
“Unfortunately animal cruelty is all too prevalent in our state, and so we need to enact laws to prevent such heinous acts from occurring,” Rep. Muxlow said in a statement, according to Dog Time. “Because offenders of animal cruelty laws commit their crimes on multiple animals and occasions, an offender registry is an important safeguard against these violent acts.”
Working on removing old, outdated laws is an entirely different matter, SB 219 defendants say. Perhaps lawmakers should spend their time altering the Michigan Penal Code and eradicating washed-up laws that are not constitutional, but that would be a significant amount of time and effort devoted to overturning laws that could never be legally enforced anyway.
“If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No,” Rep. Jones said.
The Michigan LGBT group, Equality Michigan, said this past weekend that not removing the ban on sodomy while already amending the section was “a missed opportunity.” The LGBT Caucus of the M.D.P. reportedly started the ball rolling on altering the text changes that were a part of the sodomy law on Michigan’s books. Groups met with lawmakers and legislative staff to try to rectify the unconstitutional aspect of the human sodomy line in the Michigan Penal Code. Tuesday morning, Equality Michigan announced that after much effort, the unconstitutional language in Logan’s Law will not move forward in the House as it appears in the published draft of SB 219, but it is unclear how the bill has been affected after this breaking announcement.