Panel Urges Virginia to Keep Sodomy Ban
Removing Law Could Doom Pending Cases, Panel Says
Associated Press, December
Virginia needs a new law that complies with a Supreme
Court ruling that struck down anti-sodomy laws but will keep its existing
sodomy ban as a non-working, unconstitutional vestige, the State Crime
The legislative panel asked a subcommittee to further
study options for a new law that brings Virginia into compliance with the high
court’s June ruling in a Texas case that what consenting gay people do in
the privacy of their homes is not the government’s business.
Virginia’s sodomy ban is similar to Texas’.
But the commission will recommend to the General Assembly
next month that it keep the sodomy old laws on the books. Removing them could
doom pending court cases involving people charged or convicted under current
“The reason we’re going to do that is right now there
are several cases working through the court systems in Virginia,” said
Kimberly Hamilton, executive director of the Virginia Crime Commission.
“The (attorney general’s) office is going to deal
with that on an appellate level,” she said Thursday.
Virginia law prohibits sodomy between consenting adults,
even married couples, although it has not been used against married
heterosexuals in years. Violators face up to five years in prison and a $2,500
fine if convicted.
Panel members, however, pondered how to delete portions
of the existing law that violate the privacy rights of consenting adults while
retaining bans against various sex acts in public and prostitution, offenses
the Supreme Court ruling does not affect.
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem,
cautioned the panel Wednesday against new laws to punish sodomy or homosexual
contact more severely than intercourse between men and women.
“It needs to be consistent on public sex, whether
it’s normal heterosexual sex or sodomy. It should be the same across the
board,” Griffith said.
Hamilton said the commission will work with Attorney
General Jerry W. Kilgore to draft a new law that prohibits sex acts between
consenting adults only when they occur in public. It plans to have its
recommendations by the next commission meeting Jan. 13.
“The new statute will clarify the Supreme Court’s
intent that public cases of sodomy are criminal,” Hamilton said. “We also
will deal with the law as it applies to the areas of juveniles, inmates and
prostitution. The court specifically said their opinion didn’t involve those
The current statute will be kept in place until pending
cases are resolved, Hamilton said.
The sodomy statute would not be the first
unconstitutional law left on the books in Virginia. Crime Commission members
also declined this week to recommend repealing laws prohibiting certain
businesses from operating on Sundays and a ban on flag mutilation. Those laws
were ruled unconstitutional in the 1980s.
The commission is examining Virginia’s sodomy law as
part of its larger study of statutes that need to be revised because they have
been ruled unconstitutional, Hamilton said.
Crime commission chairman Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax,
suggested creating a separate section in the multi-volume collection of state
laws listing those that have been deemed unconstitutional.
Other legislators objected to the idea.
“What we want to do with that is say, ‘We like these
laws, but we know they’re unconstitutional,’” said Sen. Kenneth W.
Stolle, R-Virginia Beach.
The attorney general’s office had no statistics on the
number of cases pending in state courts involving the sodomy law.
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