The U.S. Senate repealed a law against our Military engaging in sex with animals, otherwise known in law as ‘bestiality.” The repeal was accomplished through the administration’s need to repeal Military sodomy laws to reinforce their repugnance (and now illegality) of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote was 93 for the legislation and 7 against. It was lumped into the Defense authorization bill. My first question was, is bestiality illegal in the U.S? From what I can find, it is legal in 32 U.S. states, or can be assumed to be legal as “bestiality” is not specifically mentioned, but may be seen as animal cruelty under some state laws.
Article 125 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to engage in both sodomy with humans and sex with animals.
It states: “(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense. (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”…
Former Army Col. Bob Maginnis said some military lawyers have indicated that bestiality may be prosecutable under another section of the military code of justice – the “catch-all” Article 134 for offenses against “good military order and discipline.”
But don’t count on that, he said.
“If we have a soldier who engages in sodomy with an animal – whether a government animal or a non-government animal – is it, in fact, a chargeable offense under the Uniform Code? I think that’s in question,” Maginnis told CNSNews.com.
“When the reader stops laughing, the reader needs to ask the question whether or not this is in the best interests of the government, in the best interests of the military and the best interests of the country? I think not.”
I believe the legislation has not yet had a House vote, so it is likely that the provision against bestiality will be put back into the law, although, who knows. Seems someone in the Senate would have tried to reinstall it before the final vote.
While many of these laws date to the last century or earlier, there have been recent additions of bestiality laws, particularly as part of amended cruelty code. Notably, those states without specific bestiality laws do usually include some reference to bestiality in their child protection laws. These laws, while not included on the website, concern the exhibition of sexually explicit materials containing acts of bestiality to children, or the inclusion of children in the making of such materials.
The slight majority of these states make bestiality a felony. Of the 30 some states, 16 make such acts a felony. What is interesting about the felony designation is that many of these states dictate a lengthy penalty for violation of the law. For instance, Georgia law includes a prison term of one to five years. Idaho makes it a felony with a sentence of not less than five years. Massachusetts has a term of imprisonment not exceeding twenty years or less than seven.
In 2008, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that an animal cannot be a “victim” for the purposes of sex offender registry. People v. Haynes , — N.W.2d —-, 2008 WL 4365966 (Mich.App.). In this case, the defendant pleaded no contest to committing an “abominable and detestable crime against nature” with a sheep under MCL 750.158. In addition to sentencing consistent with being habitual offender, the trial court found that defendant’s actions evidenced sexual perversion, so the court ordered defendant to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (“SORA”). Defendant only appealed the propriety of the trial court’s order requiring him to register as a sex offender. The Court of Appeals reversed the order, holding that while sheep was the “victim” of the crime, registration was only required if the victim was a human being less than 18 years old. The court found that MCL 750.158 encompasses two categories of crimes: “abominable and detestable crime[s] against nature” with a human being, and “abominable and detestable crime[s] against nature” with an animal. SORA defines “listed offense” as including a violation of section 158 if a victim is an individual less than 18 years of age. Relying on the plain and ordinary meaning of “victim,” the court concluded that an animal was not intended to be considered a victim under the statute.
Recently enacted or amended laws focus on the necessity of psychological counseling for perpetrators of bestiality (See Arizona and Washington for instance). Other recent laws impliedly focus on the lack of consent in the activity, terming the action a “sexual assault.” Older laws term the activity a “crime against nature” or “unnatural act with an animal.” One scholarly legal article included on our website addresses briefly the legal status of bestiality statutes and the historical bases for these laws. See, 11 Animal L. 131 (2005).
Another law review article (not included on our site) suggests that these laws may not be directed at the lack of consent on the part of the animal, but rather society’s attitude toward sex itself. Pets or Meat? by Mary Ann Case, 80 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 1129 (2005). The author raises the difficult issue of how to differentiate the act of bestiality from other “tricks” pets are forced to perform, sometimes through coercion. Finally, famed animal rights philosopher Peter Singer wrote a controversial essay entitled, “Heavy Petting,” in which he suggests that “mutually satisfying activities” could occur without involving cruelty to the animal.
See http://www.nerve.com/Opinions/Singer/heavyPetting/main.asp).Singer insinuates that our discomfort with zoophilia stems more from our view as separate and morally superior from the rest of the animal world rather than the direct harm to the animal itself.
Regardless of the philosophical platform from which one views the activity, bestiality is criminally sanctioned in many states. Even if a state does not specifically proscribe the activity, it may be covered under other aspects of a state’s sex crimes code or even the anti-animal cruelty law. As with any other legal question, it is imperative to contact a licensed attorney in your state to answer any specific questions about the law.
The point is, the Military is not a “state.” Whether a state can hold a member of the U.S. Military accountable for making a “victim” of an animal, I don’t know, but think they probably can. A comment I saw somewhere, suggested the “victim” (the animal) may have been “raped,” and thus animal cruelty would kick in. There was no discussion about consensual sex. It’s easy to make fun of this issue, but really, humans are completely capable of heinous acts.
NASHVILLE — Two years ago, the Tennessee legislature put into statute what most people assumed should go without saying — it is illegal to have sex with an animal in this state.
But prosecutors across Middle Tennessee have cause to be glad that someone spelled that felony out. No less than three bestiality cases have come up in separate counties in recent months.
Three people stand accused of engaging in sex acts with farm animals in Maury County. In Humphreys County, a youth football coach was already under investigation for child rape when police reportedly found images of bestiality on his cellphone.
And in Nashville, police charged a man and a woman under the new statute after a tipster turned over photos of them having sexual contact with a dog.
Plenty of people cracked jokes about the bestiality bill when it came up in the legislature in 2007.
But District Attorney General Mike Bottoms, who is prosecuting the Maury County case, said he’s not sure what he could have charged the Maury County defendants with if the statute hadn’t been on the books.
“There are laws against cruelty to animals, but they dealt more into the neglect of the animals, which wasn’t the case here,” Bottoms said.
The 7 Senators voting against the legislation: Coburn (R-OK), Harkin (D-IA), Lee (R-UT), Merkley (D-OR), Paul (R-KY), Sanders (I-VT), Wyden (D-OR). What were the other Republican Senators thinking? I doubt they had a clue – doubt they even knew what they were voting on. Read more on Military Article 125 Sodomy laws here. Thanks to JudyW.