Charlotte Attorney Calls for Change in North Carolina Laws Governing Public
Seeks immediate legislative action in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court
Warren, November 13, 2003
East Morehead Street Suite 150
Post Office Box 36071
Charlotte, NC 28236
Tel: 704-714-4344, Fax: 866-779-3014
Charlotte attorney Ray Warren has sent a letter
to North Carolina legislative leaders urging them to support immediate reform
of the state’s laws governing sexuality. Warren’s initiative was spurred
by the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling against state anti-sodomy
laws. Warren, a former Superior Court Judge and a former state legislator, has
convinced at least one Mecklenburg County District Court judge to declare the
state’s current anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.
The exact status of the Crime Against Nature law was called into question
in June when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lawrence
v. Texas. After that decision, which reversed the conviction of two
men convicted of violating Texas’ anti-sodomy law, many observers concluded
that North Carolina’s anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional. Law enforcement
agencies and prosecutors in some counties, however, have continued to enforce
the law in settings other than private homes.
Warren and other critics of continued enforcement contend that the current
law is enforced primarily against gay men and is unconstitutional in light of
the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Judicial reaction to continued attempts to enforce the law has been
inconsistent. While one Mecklenburg County judge found the law to be
unconstitutional, other trial judges have upheld the law—at least insofar as it involves alleged
activity outside of private homes. One or more such cases is expected to be
appealed to the state’s appellate courts and eventually to the United States
Supreme Court for a definitive ruling.
Warren, who publicly announced he was gay while still a member of the state
judiciary, is asking legislative leaders to support statutory changes to avoid
court battles over the status of the Crime Against Nature law. He contends
that laws can be enacted to protect children and other members of the public
from unwanted or inappropriate public sexual activity without raising
constitutional concerns. The legislature will be meeting in a special session
later this month and Warren proposes that the new laws be enacted at that
Noting that the current Crime Against Nature law makes no distinction
between public or private acts, Warren has proposed a series of statutory
changes designed to specifically outlaw public sexual activity, without regard
to gender or sexual orientation. He notes that there is no current state law
banning public masturbation or public vaginal intercourse and that current
prostitution laws specifically exclude sexual acts other than vaginal
intercourse. In addition, the current indecent exposure law is limited to
exposure to persons of the opposite gender. Warren proposes replacing the
current Crime Against Nature law with new laws that would expand the kinds of
sexual acts included in the definition of prostitution, make it a crime to
publicly expose oneself in a sexually explicit manner to members of the same
(as well as the opposite) gender and outlaw all forms of sexual activity in
“These proposals are designed to protect children and others from
inappropriate sexual activity without unconstitutionally singling out any
specific classes of individuals for prosecution,” Warren said.
In addition to seeking support from state legislative leaders, Warren says
he will also request the backing of state prosecutors and state’s law
“There is no reason for civil rights activists and law enforcement to be
on opposite sides in this matter,” Warren said. “We all want to protect
the public, and working together we can do that in a manner that protects
constitutional rights and ensures equality of treatment for all citizens.”
What the proposed changes to the law would do:
1. Repeal the current Crime Against Nature (anti-sodomy) law or limit its
application to cases involving sex with animals.
2. Redefine prostitution to include other sex acts for hire, in addition to
3. Create an offense of exposing oneself publicly to members of the same
(as well as members of the opposite) gender with the specific intent to elicit
or display sexual excitement or arousal.
4. Prohibit all sexual acts in public places.
The letters to Speakers Jim Black and Richard Morgan and Senate President
Pro Tem Marc Basnight, the text of the proposed legislative changes and a
question and answer explanation of the need for change can be viewed at www.RayWarrenlaw.com/can.htm.
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