Last edited: April 05, 2004

Virginia Eyes New Sodomy Law

5 Years in Prison for Violations, January 14, 2004

By Doreen Brandt, Newscenter, Washington Bureau

Richmond, Virginia—The Virginia General Assembly will consider a new sodomy law when it begins a 60-day session today.

The draft legislation was approved by the Virginia State Crime Commission Tuesday. It prohibits sodomy in public but the commission also recommended keeping a broader application in direct conflict with the Supreme Court.

After the court struck down the Texas Homosexual Conduct law last year similar laws in other states, including one in Virginia became null. As a result the commission drafted the new bill to maintain the ban on public sex.

The court made it clear that its ruling did not legalize sex acts in public, said Delegate David Albo (R-Fairfax) and chairman of the commission.

Albo said some cases filed under the existing law are still pending, so the statute should be left on the books until it is specifically declared unconstitutional. If and when that occurs the commission wants to have a new statute already in place.

But, even if the existing law is declared unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling some Virginia lawmakers want to keep it on the books.

A violation of both the existing law and the proposed replacement provide a punishment of up to five years in prison.

Gay rights groups have complained for years that Virginia’s anti-sodomy statute is used to target gays, even though it also applies to heterosexuals—including married couples.

“That was our concern—that public sodomy would still be a felony when other forms of public sexual activity are considered misdemeanors,” said Dyana Mason, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Virginia. “We fear this will continue to be used to harass gay men across the state.”

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