Virginia “Crimes Against Nature” Law Struck Down?
Supreme Court’s decision in Texas case has
implications for Virginia.
Newspapers, July 1, 2003
By David Harrison
It was a day Kelly Schlageter had been waiting for for a
long time. After being on the books for centuries, the U.S. Supreme Court last
week struck down laws outlawing sodomy for both homosexual and heterosexual
couples. Although the Court’s case dealt with the law in Texas, the
justice’s ruling can also be applied to Virginia and the 12 other states
where sodomy is still against the law.
“It is a historic day in terms of gay civil rights,”
said Schlageter, a founder and board member of Equality Fairfax, a year-old
civil rights organization in the county that counts about 450 members. “The
reason it’s so historic has less to do with actual conviction and much more
to do with how the law is used in other civil rights issues.”
The Court’s ruling invalidates Virginia’s law, said
Del. Jeannemarie Devolites (R-35).
“I wouldn’t expect legislative action because the
Supreme Court has ruled and that’s the law of the land,” she said.
The decision opens the door for discussion of other
issues such benefits for partners or adoption, Schlageter said, adding: “I
don’t see it happening immediately.”
“The sodomy law’s invoked almost invariably as it
relates to other issues,” she said. “The argument will have to change.”
The Virginia law banning sodomy has been in force since
the establishment of the Commonwealth but it has not been applied very often.
In one of the most recent cases where it was used, 10 gay men were arrested in
Roanoke in 1998 for cruising in a park. The Virginia Court of Appeals turned
down their claim that the law was unconstitutional in 2000. The Virginia code
refers to sodomy as a “crime against nature.”
After the ruling was handed down, Gov. Mark Warner (D)
issued a cautious endorsement of the new law, saying, “As with any Supreme
Court decision, this is now the law of the land, and the Commonwealth will
Attorney General Jerry Kilgore (R), however, said he
opposed the new law.
“As one who believes that the courts are to interpret
and not create law, I disagree with the ruling and am always disappointed when
a court undermines Virginia’s right to pass legislation that reflects the
views and values of our citizens,” he said in a statement.
In Fairfax County, Supervisor Gerald Connolly
(D-Providence), who is running for Board Chairman this year, said the Court
was reflecting a general trend in the country at large.
“It’s not the government’s business to be intruding
in heterosexual or homosexual relationships in the privacy of one’s
bedroom,” he said. “That’s where the country has been headed for quite
School Board member Mychele Brickner who is running as a
Republican for Chairman of the Board of Supervisors refused to comment on the
ruling. “I guess I don’t see the relevance for the Board of Supervisors’
race,” she said.
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