Crimes Against Nature Law Allows Virginia Police To Target Gays
Free Lance-Star, February 9, 2001
P. O. Box 617, Fredericksburg, VA, 22401
Richard E. Sincere, Jr.
CHARLOTTESVILLE - When Republicans discuss the proper
role of government, most agree that it should be low-cost, limited in scope,
and nonintrusive in the lives of citizens.
Rank-and-file Republican voters, for the most part, stand by the words of
the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater:
"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it
more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. My aim is not to pass laws, but
to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones
that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or
that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.
"I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is needed
before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And
if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents interests,
I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in
that cause I am doing the very best I can."
Do Virginias Republicans live up to this Goldwaterite ideal? Not always,
but the impulse remains. Evidence for this is found in a recent poll from an
unlikely source on an unlikely topic.
On Jan. 16 and 18, Rasmussen Research, an independent polling organization,
conducted a statewide survey to determine knowledge and attitudes about
Virginias Crimes Against Nature statute. This statute forbids certain
intimate sexual activity, even in private and even for married couples. To be
blunt, the law prohibits oral sex for any Virginian, whether they are gay or
straight, married or single.
The law is enforced selectively. It is used to target gay men in public
places who discuss having sex. It is used as a fallback when prosecutors
cannot prove that a sexual assault has taken place, so the alleged perpetrator
is accused and convicted of consensual sodomy instead.
And it is used as a pretext to deny child custody to gay or lesbian parents
- for example, in the case of Richmonder Sharon Bottoms, which achieved
nationwide infamy when the government forcibly took her son, Tyler, from her
because she is a lesbian.
The Rasmussen Research poll found that, across the board, Virginians want
the CAN law repealed. Large majorities in almost every conceivable category
say they want to see the law eliminated, that they want their legislators to
vote for repeal, and that legislators who support repeal will not be adversely
affected at the ballot box.
This is true for Democrats, Republicans, and independents; it is true for
men and women; it is true for whites and African-Americans.
In this random survey, Republicans showed clear consistency in their view
that government should stay out of the private lives of citizens.
Asked "Should it be against the law for an unmarried man and an
unmarried woman to have sex in the state of Virginia?" 67.4 percent of
Republicans answered "no," compared to 71.1 percent overall.
Asked "Should it be against the law for a married couple to have oral
sex in the privacy of their own home?" 78.9 percent of Republicans
answered "no" (81.7 percent overall).
Asked "Currently, according to Virginia law, it is illegal for
consenting adults to have oral sex in the state of Virginia; a proposal has
been made to eliminate the Virginia law; should the Virginia law be
eliminated?" 61.4 percent of Republicans answered "yes" (65.2
Now, some members of the General Assembly say privately that they would
support the repeal of the CAN law, but that they would have hell to pay on
Election Day if they did. This is simply not true.
Survey participants were asked:
"Suppose your representative in the House of Delegates or the State
Senate voted to eliminate the Virginia law. Would that make you more likely to
vote for that person, less likely to vote for them, or would it have no impact
on your vote?" Overall, 82.9 percent of Virginians said that they would
either be more likely to vote for that representative, or it would have no
impact on their vote; 83.5 percent of Republicans answered the same way, as
did 77.5 percent of Democrats.
In other words, state legislators who vote to repeal the Crimes Against
Nature law will have little or nothing to worry about in their re-election
bids. The fear they cite is a red herring.
Republicans are part of a broad "leave us alone" coalition that
wants the government to stop breathing down our necks. As speaker of the House
of Delegates Vance Wilkins told The Washington Post, "Its simply a
matter of individual liberty versus not having the government be a
nanny." We dont trust the government to run our businesses, and we
certainly dont trust it to run our sex lives.
The spirit of Barry Goldwater lives on in Virginia.
- RICHARD SINCERE serves on the national committee of the Republican
Richard is online at GLILGuy@aol.com
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