Jeff Landry

Jeff Landry continues to take Louisiana back to the Stone Age.

The vehemently antigay governor signed a bill Monday allowing surgical castration to be used as a punishment for sex crimes. That’s right: surgical castration, a barbaric procedure that involves the surgical removal of testicles or ovaries, is now legal in the Bayou State.

That makes Louisiana the only state in the U.S. to permit surgical castration, and one of the few places in the developed world. The Czech Republic, Madagascar and a state in Nigeria have similar laws on the books, and have faced strong criticism from human rights organizations.

“It’s very confusing, in addition to being absolutely unprecedented, and draconian and overkill,” Gwyneth O’Neill, a New Orleans-based criminal defense attorney, told NPR.

The draconian legislation was a bipartisan effort, with Democratic state Rep. Delisha Boyd serving as one of the bill’s drafters. She says the law will be a strong deterrent to would-be child abusers.

“These predators have to be stopped,” she said. “Even if just one rapist changes his mind about raping a child, I will take that.”

Of course, the argument isn’t nearly that simple.

While everybody wants to stop would-be child abusers, there’s no evidence that surgical castration would be a deterrent. The procedure doesn’t prohibit a person from becoming aroused, nor does it address any psychological urges that propel abusers to act.

“The whole point of castration is that it is supposed to reduce the sex drive. If you’re pursuing castration to reduce sexual offense rates, you’re making an assumption that they’re committing a sex offense because of a high sex drive or high testosterone rates in the first place, but that is not always the motivation,” said Maaike Helmus, an associate professor of School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

One of the biggest concerns with the legislation–outside of its barbarism–is how vaguely it is written.

The law, which targets offenders found guilty of aggravated sex crimes against children under 13, would be introduced at a judge’s discretion. It will also require a court-appointed medical expert to determine whether the offender is a good candidate for the Middle Ages-style punishment.

“We don’t know who that is, who’s going to qualify to be a medical expert,” said O’Neill. “There’s no guidance on that.”

Like many “tough on crime” initiatives, there is rightful concern the castration law will be applied in discriminatory fashion. People of color are vastly overrepresented in jails and prisons, with 37% of inmates identifying as Black Americans (the percent of Black Americans in the general population is 13%). In Louisiana, the incarceration rate for Black people is nearly 50% higher than the national average.

In fact, we already know about one privileged group of abusers that could be immune from castration. Earlier this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that priests have a “property right” to not be sued for sexually abusing kids. The case, Bienvenu v. Diocese of Lafayette, was brought by several plaintiffs who say they were molested by a Catholic priest during the 1970s.

The court argued the priest is protected under the due process clause, which says no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

As attorney general, Landry, a religious zealot, declined to launch an investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic church. In fact, he said investigating the Catholic church for abuses amounts to “bigotry.”

There’s also fear the castration law could be weaponized against queer people, given Landry’s long-standing opposition to the LGBTQ+ community.

Despite having a gay brother, the governor has made discriminating against LGBTQ+ folx one of his primary goals as an elected official.

While serving as Louisiana Attorney General, he successfully won a court battle against the state’s then-Democratic governor to void existing LGBTQ+ protections for state employees.

A couple of years later, he joined several other Republican state attorneys general in signing on to a brief that urged the Supreme Court to rule that the Civil Rights Act doesn’t cover discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity. (The Court, which was a little more sane back then, ruled the law does ban such discrimination.)

But that’s not all. Landry also played a pivotal role in Louisiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors, and campaigned for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to rescind its offered minor in LGBTQ+ studies. Landry’s hateful antics propelled his brother, Nicholas, to disavow his homophobic views.

“I can’t remain silent any longer,” he said in a YouTube video. “Although I am not political, I am a human being, and I just want my rights, my unalienable rights.”

When pressed on how his push to permit antigay discrimination could impact his brother, Landry offered up word salad.

“I love my brother. That’s unquestionable. But I would tell him the same thing. We have to respect the law and we have to respect the Constitution,” he said in 2016. “Both the Constitution and the law give us avenues to address those grievances. Now, we don’t always agree in the way they are addressed, but we have to respect that also.”

Apparently, Landry hasn’t read the part of the Constitution that says “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Speaking of Constitutional ignorance, Landry also championed a law requiring all Louisiana public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments, a blatant violation of the sacred separation of church and state.

The law was immediately challenged, and could wind up all the way to the US Supreme Court. Given that SCOTUS has been infiltrated by Christian extremists, we’re pretty sure we know how they’re going to rule on that one!

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