State of Idaho Settles ACLU Lawsuit Challenging Idaho’s Unconstitutional Use of Its Sex Offender Registry

BOISE – Today the state of Idaho granted Doe v. Wasden settled an ACLU lawsuit challenging enforcement of the state’s Crime Against Nature statute. The state ordered three men to register as sex offenders in Idaho for engaging in consensual oral and anal sex. State enforcement of the law has historically been used to convict and punish LGBGT+ people.

The settlement finalized today requires the state to remove the three men from the Idaho sex offender registry and create a policy to remove others with similar claims.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the registration requirement was likely unconstitutional and ordered the state to remove two of the three men from the register. Judge Winmill wrote that the public interest tipped in favor of these men and “[t]The state cannot have a legitimate interest in requiring this [ACLU Idaho clients] Doe and Menges to register as sex offenders for engaging in private, consensual sexual activity.” Following that ruling, the state of Idaho appealed. At an oral hearing, the Idaho Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals strongly recommended that the case be settled.

“As Judge Winmill ruled last year, our clients have established irreparable harm: The state of Idaho ruined their lives by labeling them ‘sex offenders’ for consensual sex. Where our customers live, work and travel has been restricted; they have lost jobs and family ties. The state settled this case because it knew that after our victory in federal court last year, we would ultimately prevail; There was no reason to prolong a losing battle that would cost taxpayers even more money to defend unconstitutional laws,” said Aadika Singh, the ACLU’s Idaho legal director, who represents the plaintiffs.

Last July, Michigan Law School professor JJ Scott released a report as part of an expert testimony stating that sex offender registration and notification laws “are not serving their purpose of reducing the risk of reoffending, the number of sex offenses overall.” to decrease or make communities safer.” The report concluded, “Existing evidence indicates that it is likely that, far from reducing the number of sex offenses, the Idaho reporting law will increase the overall number of sex offenses in the State actively increased each year.”

“It’s shocking that as late as 2022, Idaho was putting people convicted of oral or anal sex on the sex offender registry,” said Matthew Strugar, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “This settlement not only provides relief for our two clients, but also for a third man who has also been a victim of decades of state-sanctioned homophobia.”

“Our clients and other Idahoans have been wrongfully ordered to register as sex offenders under threat of incarceration, and this settlement changes that,” said Debra Groberg of Nevin Benjamin & McKay, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “While justice delayed is usually justice denied, this lawsuit last year repealed Idaho’s unconstitutional crimes against nature statute and ensures that others will not suffer the same discriminatory punishment in the future.”

In 2003, the US Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas found that anti-sodomy statutes, including the Idaho Crimes Against Nature Act, violated constitutional protections under the Fourteenth Amendment. Despite this, Idaho was one of three states that continued to enforce its bestiality against nature statute by requiring convicted individuals to register as sex offenders. From 1955 to 1957, Idaho’s Crime Against Nature statute was the primary legal vehicle for The Boys of Boise affair – one of the most virulent anti-gay witch hunts in American history. Idaho’s crimes against nature law has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in Idaho’s territorial era. The ACLU’s lawsuit finally puts an end to this unconstitutional legal regime, said Aadika Singh, legal director of the ACLU of Idaho and attorney for the plaintiffs.

“We are pleased to announce another victory for LGBTQ+ equality in Idaho after following our settlement with the City of Boise, which fired our client Jax Perez for sharing his LGBTQ+ identity at work. These cases shouldn’t need to go to court, but sadly, given the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment of the Idaho legislature and some communities—even the most progressive—we brace ourselves for more attacks on Idaho’s minority communities. But we will be here as we have always been, fighting for the people,” said Aadika Singh, legal director of the ACLU in Idaho.

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