Last edited: February 14, 2005

Sodomy Bill Endorsed House Gives Tentative OK To Lessen Penalties

Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 15, 2000
Box 85333, Richmond, VA, 23293-0001
Fax: 804-775-8072 or 775-8090

By Pamela Stallsmith, Times-Dispatch Staff Writer

In a session that extended well into the night, the House of Delegates gave tentative approval to measures that would lessen penalties in the state’s centuries-old sodomy law and establish a "sunshine office" where residents could resolve disputes about access to public records.

The House plowed through a hefty docket as it scrambled to meet today’s deadline for acting on its more than 1,500 bills and resolutions this session. Today’s "crossover" date marks the halfway point of the 60-day session, which ends March 11.

The sodomy bill, pushed by Del. L. Karen Darner, D-Arlington, would reduce from a felony to a misdemeanor a charge of sodomy between consenting adults. It would apply to homosexuals and heterosexuals. Her measure passed in a voice vote and will be given final consideration today.

"Most people do not know it is a felonious crime, with a one- to five-year possible jail sentence and a $2,500 fine," said Darner, who has backed the measure for about eight years. If convicted, people "could lose their professional licenses and lose their right to vote. You might say it’s rarely enforced, but I say it’s selectively enforced."

Once all states had anti-sodomy laws on the books, she said. Now fewer than 20 do.

"Let’s wake up to the reality," she said. "A private act of love that occurs every day in homes across the commonwealth" should not be a felony. . . . [other topics]

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