N.C. Sodomy Law Still Enforced Despite Ruling on Texas Measure
Associated Press, August 25, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C.—Police and sheriff’s deputies are
still enforcing North Carolina’s crime against nature law despite a U.S.
Supreme Court decision striking down a similar Texas law prohibiting
The North Carolina law is defined to ban oral or anal sex between unmarried
couples. Critics contend it has been used to criminalize gay relationships and
discriminate against homosexuals.
Constitutional law experts and gay advocates say the state statute became
invalid when the Supreme Court struck down the Texas law against sodomy.
“We don’t believe that there is a constitutional way to enforce the
crime against nature law,” said Seth Jaffe, managing attorney for the
American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
Law enforcement officials said they continue to use the law because it is
their only way to make arrests for prostitution that involves oral sex, which
isn’t covered under the state’s prostitution law.
Prosecutors also bring crime against nature charges against people who have
sex in public, which other state laws don’t specifically prohibit. A charge
of indecent exposure would not necessarily apply because it’s a crime to be
naked in public only if seen by a member of the opposite sex.
John A. Maxfield, legal adviser to the Wake County sheriff, and Dawn
Bryant, Raleigh’s police attorney, have told officers they can continue to
charge people with crime against nature as long as the activity occurs in a
“We’re following constitutional law,” Bryant said. “The Supreme
Court’s decision only applies to private conduct.”
Prosecutors in Brunswick County, for example, recently dismissed charges
against three men for sexual activities at a party in a private residence.
They are pursuing charges against six men accused of having oral sex in a
public park near a school.
“The only thing we want,” Brunswick County assistant district attorney
Connie Jordan said, “is for them not to have sex next to where kids are
getting on a bus.”
No figures were available on the number of people charged with crime
against nature in North Carolina since the Supreme Court ruled June 26. In the
first six months of this year, more than 400 people were charged with either
violating the crime against nature law or soliciting to break the law.
At least one jurist, Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Nate Proctor,
has declared the state law unconstitutional as a result of the Supreme
Court’s decision. Proctor’s ruling, now on appeal, came in the case of a
38-year-old man charged with solicitation to commit crime against nature.
The man alleges he was lured into a flirtatious conversation with an
undercover officer in a public park, said his lawyer, Ray Warren of Charlotte,
a former Superior Court judge and state legislator.
Warren said he was disappointed that neither the state’s Conference of
District Attorneys nor state Attorney General Roy Cooper has issued definitive
statements urging prosecutors to halt charges under the statute.
Cooper spokesman John Bason said the Attorney General’s Office offers
opinions only when government officials or agencies request them. None have
asked for formal guidance on the issue, he said.
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