Last edited: February 14, 2005

An Indecent Proposal?

Activist Kameny Solicits Sodomy In Virginia

The Washington Blade, January 1, 1999
Washington, DC

By Lou Chibbaro Jr.

During a live radio interview on December 23, D.C. Gay activist Frank Kameny announced he was stepping up efforts to repeal Virginia’s sodomy law by personally soliciting to engage in sodomy "the entire adult population of the state of Virginia, with particular emphasis upon all prosecutors, police chiefs and police officers, and judges in the state."

Kameny, a nationally recognized Gay activist since the 1960s, said he is urging Gays in all states and U.S. territories where sodomy between consenting adults is illegal to issue similar public solicitations for sodomy in an effort to strike down those laws.

He issued his solicitation to Virginia officials during an interview on Rainbow Talk, a weekly, hour-long radio program on Gay issues that airs on WZHF-AM.

"I hereby solicit, urge, entreat, and invite every person in the state of Virginia of the age of 18 years or above to engage with me in an act of sodomy of his or her choice and as defined by Section 18.2-361 of the Virginia Code, in some indisputable private place in the state of Virginia at a time of our mutual convenience," Kameny stated on the radio program. "This solicitation includes, but certainly is not limited to, all police chiefs and police officers, other law enforcement officials, prosecutors under whatever formal title, and judges in the state of Virginia."

The Virginia sodomy law prohibits acts of oral or anal sex among Gays or heterosexuals regardless of whether such acts take place in the privacy of one’s home. A separate state law pertaining to the solicitation to commit a felony makes it illegal to solicit or "ask" someone to engage in sodomy.

Kameny stated he was placing "particular emphasis" on soliciting police and other officials in the cities of Charlottesville and Roanoke to engage in sodomy. Police have made numerous arrests in these cities in recent months for solicitation for sodomy in public places where men seek out other men for sexual encounters.

Added Kameny, "If I am prosecuted for this solicitation, I will fight it with the intent to achieve the striking down of the Virginia sodomy law. If I am not prosecuted, then a precedent will have been set, since if I can solicit everyone in Virginia for sodomy, including all of its law enforcement officials, with impunity and without arrest and prosecution, then anyone in Virginia can solicit anyone for sodomy without fear of arrest and prosecution, and that precedent will be publicized and utilized."

Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Trodden and Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randolph Sengel, the chief prosecutors of their respective jurisdictions, said they have no intention of prosecuting Kameny. Both said they support efforts to repeal the Virginia sodomy law. In separate telephone interviews with the Blade, the two said they never prosecute consenting adults for sodomy or solicitation for sodomy in private places. In cases involving sexual activity in public places, Trodden and Sengel said they prefer to charge defendants with indecent exposure or improper touching, where appropriate, but not with sodomy or solicitation for sodomy.

However, Trodden and Sengel said that while they favor repeal of the sodomy law, they dispute Kameny’s assertion that a decision by Virginia law enforcement officials not to prosecute Kameny for his blanket solicitation will set a precedent that would enable anyone in the state to solicit others for sodomy without fear of arrest.

"I don’t think that’s an accurate interpretation of the criminal statute," said Sengel. A decision by Virginia authorities not to go after Kameny "doesn’t invalidate the statute," he said. Trodden echoed Sengel’s opinion on the matter.

Kameny said a failure to prosecute him or others who openly solicit people for sodomy could play a role in litigation seeking to overturn the sodomy law.

"Ultimately, it will be up to a court to decide this," he said.

Currently, 14 states have sodomy laws which are deemed enforceable. Another five states, including Maryland, have sodomy laws which have been weakened or crippled by court rulings and which the ability of authorities to enforce them are in dispute.

Because the Virginia legislature is dominated by conservative Republicans and Democrats, knowledgeable observers say there is no chance a majority of state lawmakers will vote to repeal the Virginia sodomy law anytime soon. Some observers say chances for repeal will decrease rather than increase in 1999 because Republicans are poised to win control of both houses of the legislature in the November election.

[Home] [News] [Virginia]