Last edited: February 14, 2005

Sodomy Laws Debated

Virginians for Justice conducted a poll saying citizens do not favor the Virginia Crimes Against Nature Law

Collegiate Times, February 8, 2001
Virginia Tech

By Theresa Seidlinger, Staff Writer

Virginians for Justice has released poll information that questions people’s attitudes toward Virginia law.

"The results of this poll indicate what we’ve been saying for years," said Shirley Lesser, executive director of Virginians for Justice.

"Virginians support the decriminalization of private, consensual behaviors that Virginia law now makes a felony," she said.

"The law in Virginia considers any act of sodomy - which is anal or oral sex - to be a felony," Lesser said.

Virginians for Justice, an organization that works with government for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual individuals, has been lobbying for more than a decade to change the Virginia Crimes Against Nature Law of the Code of Virginia.

The poll results, released Jan. 29, explain that Virginia legislators should now know what their constituents want, Lesser said.

"These changes should be made to Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature Law," she said. "To do otherwise would be to go against the wishes of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia."

These laws are used or implemented unequally, Lesser said.

"Gay, lesbian, bi(sexual) and transsexual individuals are targeted (by these laws)," she said.

Patrick Heck, chair of the board of Virginians for Justice, said the laws are used to remove children from parental care.

"Crimes Against Nature laws are also used in child custody cases," he said. "In a Virginia Supreme Court decision, a woman was convicted of a felony and her children were taken away."

The Crimes Against Nature laws are also used as harassment and justification, Lesser said.

"Gay men have been hit with the law in instances of solicitation (of sex)," Lesser said. "Also, the laws are used for justification in hiring and termination (of jobs).

"Although there have been cases in court, it is rare for (a person) to be charged with this felony," she said.

"The poll made clear perceptions that Virginia residents have concerning these laws," Lesser said. "Most people do not want the government criminalizing private adult consensual behavior."

Two bills were sent to the General Assembly concerning the laws.

"One of the bills would have made the act a misdemeanor instead of a felony and the other would take the repeal away completely," Lesser said.

However, both bills died in the General Assembly, she said.

This result shows a disconnection of interests between the will of the people and the legislation, Lesser said.

Heck said heterosexuals must be aware of the Crimes Against Nature laws.

"College students need to be aware of this obstructive behavior that they may be held accountable for," Heck said. "Although they are not often the target of such laws, it is important for individuals to realize the inappropriate use of the laws that become an unhappy reality to some individuals."

Virginians for Justice is working on legislation while the General Assembly is in session.

"Our biggest project concerns the General Assembly since it is in session," Lesser said. "In addition to that, we are working on an anti-violence project."

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