By Katie Gagliano | The Advocate

A bill to strengthen and modernize Louisiana’s anti-bestiality law finally passed the Senate Monday and will head to the governor for approval after surprise backlash throughout the legislative process.

Senate Bill 236 by Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, passed in a 36-1 vote after lawmakers approved House amendments. The changes placed more emphasis on psychological evaluations, differentiating between molestation of children and animal sexual abuse, and granting judges greater discretion in determining when an offender can interact with animals again, Morrell said.

Ten senators voted against the bill in its original appearance.

Monday’s lone opposition, Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, said he opposed the bill because he was informed by staff members the bill jeopardized support services for children. Morrell said the measure forges a new area of state law, making that impossible.

SB236 makes it illegal to have sex with an animal, observe or assist a person having sex with an animal, solicit animal sex online, or possess and traffic pornographic material of animals engaging in sex with humans, among other acts.

Those guilty under the new law would serve up to five years in prison and face up to $2,000 in fines. They would also receive mental health treatment, undergo a sexual offender program and have access to animals limited. Penalties were more stringent in cases of serious bodily injury or death to the animal, with offenders facing fines between $5,000 and $25,000 and prison time up to 10 years.

Morrell’s bill makes sexual abuse of an animal an independent crime from Louisiana’s existing bestiality statute. The current law is included in the state’s crimes against nature law, the sodomy portion of which was deemed unconstitutional after the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas.

The bill, which Morrell brought at the behest of the Humane Society, caused a surprise stir after opponents accused the New Orleans Democrat of using the bill as an underhanded attempt to dismantle the state’s sodomy laws.

Morrell said the move was unconnected to his support for the LGBT community and was focused on curtailing animal sexual abuse in ways the currently murky crimes against nature statute fails to do.