Last edited: July 11, 2004

Suit Challenges Virginia Sodomy Law, July 9, 2004

By 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 longer exists.”

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 and released.

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 country.

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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