Sex, Politics, Laws, the Courts… and ATSA, April 23, 2016
By Jon Brandt, MSW, LICSW
“If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”
Federal Judge Martha Craig DaughtreyDeBoer v. Snyder, 2014
Sex educator, Dr. Marty Klein recently published a blog titled, “Politics? I’m Interested in Sex, not Politics.” His thesis is that sex and politics are inextricably connected, and if you care about rational public policies regarding the management of sexual behaviors, it helps to have a stomach for politics.
There’s a natural tension between complex social problems, public opinions, and laws – perhaps that’s one definition of “politics.” In a democracy, laws are frequently driven more by public opinion than sound science or constitutional principles. Some “sex offender” laws seem to be driven by fear, anger, and misinformation, and resemble moral panic more than informed public policies. When the lag-time for scientific advances takes too long to engender best practices or influence public policies, or when a compelling public interest can no longer justify laws that breach the boundaries of constitutional safeguards, often the courts step in. Beyond the illustrations that Dr. Klein offers in his blog, there are many examples of laws that are (or were) unwarranted, overreaching, or unreasonably intrusive, and the courts intervened. Consider these “sexual offenses” of yesteryear.