Suit Challenges Virginia Sodomy Law
July 9, 2004
By 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Virginia Beach, Virginia—A
lawsuit to be filed Monday in Virginia challenges the last vestige of sodomy
laws. After the US Supreme Court ruled last year that laws against sodomy were
unconstitutional, the state of Virginia dug in its heels. The state maintains
that sodomy in the privacy of one’s home is now legal, but seeking it in a
public place is not.
With court papers that will be filed Monday in the
Virginia Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal will appeal the conviction of a man
who was charged with solicitation of sodomy.
“This sodomy law is dead, and that means you can’t
convict someone for attempting to violate it or talking about violating it;
there’s no law left to violate,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney
in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office and Lambda Legal’s lead
attorney on the case.
“This was a rogue prosecution under a law that no
Earlier this year, Joel Singson was convicted of
solicitation to commit sodomy. The incident began after a discussion with an
undercover police officer in the men’s room of a store in a Virginia Beach
mall, which the officer said led him to believe Singson requested an act of
sodomy. Singson was taken by two officers to the back of the store, questioned
He was charged several months later and spent 8 days in
jail. If Singson loses at the end of the appeal process, he faces a three-year
jail sentence with two and a half years suspended.
In the appeal, Lambda Legal argues that the lower court
should have dismissed the case in light of the Supreme Court decision in the
Lawrence v. Texas case striking down all remaining sodomy laws across the
Lambda Legal, which was lead counsel on the U.S. Supreme
Court case challenging sodomy laws that was decided over a year ago, said the
Supreme Court’s ruling clearly struck down sodomy laws in all 13 states that
still had them, including Virginia. (story)
Consequently, states cannot continue enforcing those laws
or prosecuting people for attempting to violate them, although states can pass
or enforce laws prohibiting public sex, as long as those laws apply to all
people and are enforced equally, Lambda Legal said.
Lambda Legal pointed to a similar case in New York over
two decades ago, where the state’s sodomy law had been struck down and the
state’s highest court later said that, as a result, it was unconstitutional
to prosecute people for loitering for the purpose of soliciting sodomy.
In the Lawrence case, Lambda Legal represented John
Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home and
jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report found the men
engaged in private, consensual sex. Once convicted, they were forced to pay
fines and were considered sex offenders in several states.
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