ACLU Challenges Virginias "Crimes Against Nature" Sodomy Law
American Civil Liberties Union,
May 31, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RICHMOND, VATaking a stand for constitutionally-protected privacy
rights, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the National ACLU Lesbian and
Gay Rights Project today asked the Virginia Supreme Court to overturn the states
"crimes against nature" law.
In an amicus brief filed jointly with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU
argues that the Virginia law which, among other provisions, prohibits all oral sex
regardless of the gender or marital status of the persons involved violates the
right of privacy guaranteed by the Virginia Constitution.
"It is time for Virginia to deal with this archaic law," said ACLU of
Virginia executive director Kent Willis. "Not only does it allow the government to
invade the bedroom of every Virginia citizen, but it has been shamefully misused to
discriminate against the gay community."
"We are hopeful that the Virginia Supreme Court will do what legislators seem to
lack the willpower to do," added Willis. "There is little doubt that the vast
majority of Virginias legislators want this law eliminated or substantially
modified. But they fear taking on such a politically touchy subject, so they turn away
from it year after year."
The brief asks that the Virginia Supreme Court either strike down the law as
unconstitutional or rule that the law does not apply to private sexual activity between
The ACLU brief warns that a ruling from the Virginia Supreme Court stating that the law
only applies to gay men and lesbians would conflict with the U.S. Supreme Courts
decision in Romer v. Evans.
In that case, decided in 1996, the nations highest court ruled that a law
specifically targeting gays and lesbians based on dislike or disapproval of them violates
the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In recent years, the ACLU has successfully helped overturn sodomy laws in Maryland
(1999), Georgia (1998), Montana (1997), Tennessee (1996) and Kentucky (1993).
In 1961, every state in America had a sodomy law. Today, 13 states and Puerto Rico have
sodomy laws that apply to heterosexuals and homosexuals (like Virginias sodomy
statute). Another five states have sodomy laws that apply only to homosexuals.
This spring, the ACLU asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn that states
sodomy law. A similar challenge is underway in Puerto Rico, and next month the ACLU will
file a challenge to Minnesotas sodomy law.
The Virginia case is DePriest, et al. v. Commonwealth of Virginia.
For more information on sodomy laws, visit the ACLUs lesbian and gay rights issue
page at http://www.aclu.org/issues/gay/hmgl.html.
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