Last edited: January 22, 2005

Court: Fornication Law Unconstitutional

Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2005

The Virginia Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional today the state law that makes it illegal for nonmarried people to have sex. The court said there is “no relevant distinction” between the Virginia statute outlawing fornication and the Texas sodomy law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2003. The issue came to the Virginia court in the context of a civil lawsuit. A woman sought damages from a man from whom she had contracted herpes during the two-year sexual relationship. Richmond Circuit Judge T.J. Markow, relying on a 1990 Virginia Supreme Court opinion, ruled that she could not maintain the lawsuit because she had contracted the disease while participating in the illegal act of fornication. Writing for the Virginia Supreme Court, Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy said, “The [U.S.] Supreme Court in Lawrence indicated that such policies are insufficient to sustain the statute’s constitutionality.” Lacy emphasized that today’s decision applies only “to private consensual sexual intercourse. Our holding does not affect the commonwealth’s police powers regarding regulation of public fornication, prostitution or other such crimes,” Lacy said.

[Home] [News] [Virginia]