Last edited: December 05, 2004

Repeal Sodomy Laws Once and for All

Norfolk 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In the case of repealing Virginia’s outdated sodomy laws, halfway isn’t good enough.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 lesbians.

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The General Assembly shouldn’t have needed the Supreme Court to tell it to get rid of the state’s outdated sodomy law.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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