As local and state governments have imposed tough penalties for sex crimes, including restrictions on where sex offenders can live or even set foot, members of this stigmatized group have begun to fight back, the New York Times reports. More than 100 sex offenders, almost all of them men, along with wives, girlfriends and mothers — came from around the U.S. to a gathering titled, “Justice for All: A Conference to Reform Sexual Offense Laws.” They and others have formed associations and are holding conferences to argue that a wave of legal penalties and restrictions washing across the U.S. has gone too far.
They hope to convince judges, lawmakers and the public that indiscriminate laws aimed at all sex offenders are unconstitutional and ineffective. One of them, Larry Neely, is an advocate for sex offenders' rights. “Your fears are really rational,” he said. “But if you don't fight, you will lose.” It is no easy sell. A patchwork of laws that have gained favor since the mid-'90s, popular with lawmakers and voters alike, bar convicted sex offenders from a large and growing array of public spaces.