Senate Delays Ruling on Sodomy
Some Fear that a Court Challenge of the Private Sex
Acts Provision Could Inadvertently Invalidate a Ban on Public Sodomy.
Times, March 9, 2004
By Kevin Miller
RICHMOND—A Senate committee voted
Monday to leave Virginia’s anti-sodomy law intact despite a recent Supreme
Court ruling that invalidates states’ attempts to restrict the private sex
lives of adults.
Current Virginia law prohibits anal and oral sex between
consenting adults—whether heterosexual or homosexual—in public and
private. Lawmakers have widely conceded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s
decision last year in the Lawrence v. Texas case would also nullify
Virginia’s law on private sex acts.
But some lawmakers and legal analysts have warned that
Virginia’s anti-sodomy law is so tightly worded that a court challenge of
the private sex acts provision, which is rarely enforced, could inadvertently
invalidate Virginia’s ban on public sodomy.
On Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted
to carry over until next year a bill by Del. Dave Albo, R-Fairfax County, that
would have specified that public sodomy is illegal without entirely repealing
the “crimes against nature” statute.
Several committee members appeared to agree with Attorney
General Jerry Kilgore’s office contention that the existing law on public
sodomy is legally defensible. There are several cases of public sodomy pending
in the courts.
The committee vote pleased and troubled the bill’s
“I think it leaves us out of compliance with Lawrence
v. Texas,” said Aimee Perron with the American Civil Liberties Union of
Virginia, which supported a total repeal of Virginia’s ban on private sodomy
between consenting adults. “We’re stuck with something that’s been
struck down by the courts.”
However, representatives from Equality Virginia, a
gay-rights organization, said Albo’s bill raised equal-protection issues
because it keeps public sodomy a felony while most other nonviolent sex acts
Equality Virginia and other opponents point out that
Virginia’s anti-sodomy law is rarely used against heterosexuals.
Ten men were convicted of solicitation to commit sodomy
after being arrested in 1998 in Roanoke’s Wasena Park. Police set up the
sting operation after neighbors had complained that gay men were looking for
sexual partners in the park.
Last year, a group of 26 men were charged with soliciting
sex in the back room of a Harrisonburg adult book- store. However, many of the
charges were dropped after a judge ruled that the adult bookstore could be
considered a private setting under the high court’s decision.
Sen. Ken Stolle, R-Virginia Beach and the committee
chairman, said he is concerned that varying treatment of different sex acts
violates equal-protection law.
[Home] [News] [Virginia]