Virginia Hesitates on Sodomy Repeal
December 7, 2003
RICHMOND, Va.—The state of
Virginia needs a new law that complies with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling
that struck down anti-sodomy statues, but the state should keep its existing
sodomy ban as a nonworking, unconstitutional relic, a Republican-dominated
state Crime Commission has decided. Removing the state’s more than
two-century-old law could doom pending court cases involving people charged or
convicted under current Virginia law, commission members warned.
The legislative panel asked a subcommittee to further
study options for a new law that brings Virginia into compliance with the
Supreme Court’s June ruling. A new law would forbid consenting adults from
engaging in sodomy in public places, and keep sex acts with juveniles and
But the commission will recommend to the General Assembly
next month that it keep the old sodomy laws on the books.
“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.
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.
House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith cautioned the
panel Wednesday against any new laws to punish sodomy or same-sex contact more
severely than intercourse between men and women.
“It’s just silly,” said Arlington Democrat Adam
Ebbin, the state’s first openly gay legislator. “Here we are in the 21st
century, and Virginia is not quite ready to make the commitment to get into
the 20th century.”
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