Repeal Sodomy Laws Once and for All
Virginian-Pilot, January 26, 2004
P.O. Box 449, Norfolk, VA 23501-0449
Fax: 757 446-2051
In the case of repealing Virginia’s outdated sodomy
laws, halfway isn’t good enough.
After last year’s Supreme Court declaration that
Texas’ sodomy statute is unconstitutional, Virginians gay and straight have
been pondering the fate of a similar law in the Old Dominion. But if the State
Crime Commission has its way, one discriminatory law will replace another.
Earlier this month, the commission endorsed legislation
it drafted in response to the Texas decision. Despite the high court’s
ruling, and in a dubious effort to pad their anti-gay resumes, several
Virginia lawmakers have decided the state needs a new law almost identical to
the old one.
Instead of prohibiting certain sexual acts in
private—unconstitutional after last year’s Supreme Court ruling—the new
legislation would forbid them in public.
In explaining the need for such a bill, Fairfax
Republican Del. David Albo, the commission’s chairman, wanted to make it
clear to citizens that the high court’s decision does not legalize public
sex acts. No one said that it did.
Albo wants to classify public sodomy as a felony with a
five-year prison term. But other forms of public sexual activity already on
the books, such as indecent exposure or lewdness, only bring misdemeanor
charges. In effect, the new bill would treat similar acts differently.
But this is no great departure for Virginia: While the
state’s existing sodomy law technically applied to both homosexual and
heterosexual couples, the law has been used primarily to target gays and
In putting new sodomy laws on the books, Albo and
like-minded lawmakers want to make it clear to their constituents that they
are a cultural bulwark against an increasingly immoral society. But a vote in
favor of this bill is simply a vote for intolerance.
The General Assembly shouldn’t have needed the Supreme
Court to tell it to get rid of the state’s outdated sodomy law. This statute
is so antiquated by contemporary social norms as to have been drained of any
authority years ago. Virginians who get randy in public can already be charged
with existing laws governing indecency and lewdness. We see no need for yet
another useless law in Virginia’s code, particularly one so transparently
defiant of the Supreme Court.
Fortunately, the public sodomy bill is meeting opposition
from both sides of the aisle, including Virginia Beach Republican Sen. Kenneth
Stolle, who has called it “ludicrous.” Those who favor equal treatment for
all Virginians should hope saner heads prevail in Richmond.
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