Thursday, April 05, 2012

Kansas top court spares dog-diddler from sex offender registry

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Joshua Coman
Joshua Coman

Here’s an interesting one: The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that a man twice convicted of sexual contact with dogs won’t have to register as a sex offender:

The state Supreme Court has decided that a Sedgwick County man who molested a rottweiler won’t have to register as a sex offender.

The state’s highest court overturned both Sedgwick County District Court Judge Joseph Bribiesca and the Kansas Court of Appeals, who had ruled Joshua Coman would have to register as a sex offender after his second conviction for sodomy involving a dog.

In his appeal, Coman argued that Kansas’s registration law did not apply to him because he was convicted of a misdemeanor that wasn’t on the list of felony offenses for which registration is required.

One key detail is that the law Coman was convicted under also criminalizes consensual gay sex:

In Kansas law, sodomy is defined as oral or anal sex, or sex with animals. Criminal sodomy is defined as “[s]odomy between persons who are 16 or more years of age and members of the same sex, or between a person and an animal.”

“The statutory provision under which Coman was convicted proscribes consensual homosexual conduct, as well as bestiality,” Justice Lee A. Johnson wrote in the Supreme Court opinion, which was released on Friday.

It strikes me as obvious right from the start that any law that equates gay sex with bestiality is inherently wrong and should not be upheld, much less used to convict people regardless of whether or not they’ve actually harmed anyone (or anything). The report specifies that Coman’s offenses were apparently limited to digital sexual contact with the animal. No indication of actual abuse or injury (either physical or psychological) is given.

Now, as I’ve repeatedly stated, the mere “icky” factor is simply no good moral or (ideally) legal grounds for criminalizing any given act. It’s the same reasoning behind the ideal that no-one has the right to prohibit anyone’s freedom of speech simply because they may find it offensive. The only rational way to know whether something ought to be considered wrong under the law is whether A) the act causes actual physical or psychological harm, or B) prohibiting said act would effectively limit incidents resulting in physical or psychological harm. And no matter how you feel about it, there’s simply no evidentiary grounds for claiming that merely having sexual contact with animals is enough to harm either party, especially if it’s made specifically clear that the animal was, in fact, completely unharmed.

While it’s not properly established whether the dogs Coman had “inappropriate” contact with were hurt or not, the absence of any such indications (including any animal cruelty charges, which are generally par for the course in these cases) seems to indicate that, as is so often the case, a man is being prosecuted (and in all probability persecuted) for having done something that A) never hurt anyone or anything and B) isn’t anyone else’s damn business, anyway. As always, mitigating details may be later revealed, but as it is, it seems that Coman’s only error was in getting caught.

Honestly, every time I start to feel a little nervous about writing about these sorts of things (I have to wonder whether I’m already painting myself as a “defender of bestiality” or whatnot), I hear about more cases like this and realize how absurd and ridiculous all this puritanical hysteria is – and how important it is to write about it, if only to provide (what I deem is) one small beacon of reason in an otherwise murky sea of irrationality.

On a final note, though, I do feel like pointing out this sinister irony: The sex offender registry includes countless streakers, public urinators, children who played “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” and teens who had consensual sex whilst being only a couple years above or below whatever the local age of consent happened to be, yet won’t be featuring a man twice found guilty of molesting dogs? Not that it should, of course, but it is somewhat darkly amusing to see the selective illogic behind these laws exposed like this.

(via @radleybalko)