Last edited: February 14, 2005

VA House Committee OK’s Sodomy Reform Bill

Planet Out, February 15, 2000

The Virginia House of Delegates’ Courts of Justice Committee on February 13 voted 13 - 8 in support of a bill to reduce "crimes against nature" from felonies punishable by 5 - 20 years imprisonment to misdemeanors punishable by a fine up to $250. Both the proposed and existing law criminalize oral-genital contact between consenting adults regardless of the gender of the parties involved and regardless of whether the act is committed in private or public, although activists have long maintained that it is more often enforced on gay men in public venues. Such laws often impact the status of gays and lesbians in other areas such as child custody, even when no charges have ever been brought against the person in question. Delegate Karen Darner D-Arlington), who has tried previously to repeal the "crimes against nature" law but could not win committee support, was quoted by the "Washington Post" as saying, "My feeling is I would still like to have it decriminalized, but this is at least a recognition that the current law is outrageous."

Unless the full House approves the bill by the end of February 15, it will die instead of moving on to the state Senate. The Virginia Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a constitutional challenge to the "crimes against nature" law, brought by a number of gay men arrested in a police sting in a park in Roanoke more than a year ago.

In a related story, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced February 11 that it has overcome the final legal barrier to gaining a hearing on a civil lawsuit by gays and lesbians challenging the sodomy law in Arkansas, which applies exclusively to homosexual acts.

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