Last edited: April 09, 2007



  • Statute: 18.2-361, Crimes Against Nature. Unconstitutional under Lawrence v. TexasVirginia continues to arrest and prosecute under this law.
  • Penalty: 5 years
  • Classification: Felony
  • Restrictions: None

Adultery, and co-habitation are also illegal and enforced sporadically and maliciously. Fornication was ruled unconstitutional in 2005 by the Virginia Supreme Court based on the Lawrence decision.


§ 18.2-361 Crimes against nature

A. If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal, or carnally knows any male or female person by the anus or by or with the mouth, or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony, except as provided in subsection B.

B. Any person who carnally knows by the anus or by or with the mouth his daughter or granddaughter, son or grandson, brother or sister, or father or mother shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. However, if a parent or grandparent commits any such act with his child or grandchild and such child or grandchild is at least thirteen but less than eighteen years of age at the time of the offense, such parent or grandparent shall be guilty of a Class 3 felony.


            1625     Richard Cornish is hanged for sodomy with another man in Virginia. This is the first known death sentence for sodomy in the American colonies, although it is unclear if there was legal authority for the sentence.

            1777     A committee works on a revised set of criminal law for Virginia. Thomas Jefferson and other liberals attempt to have the death penalty for sodomy replaced by castration for men and boring a hole through the nose of a woman. The committee rejects their suggestion and retains the death penalty.

            1812     The Virginia Supreme Court is the first in the nation to decide that emission of semen is not necessary to complete an act of sodomy. This rejects English law on the subject and almost all U.S. courts later follow Virginia’s lead.

            1916     The Virginia legislature expands the state’s sodomy law to cover oral sex and makes the oral sex provision applicable only to people of the same sex. After the Virginia Supreme Court follows the law and reverses a heterosexual sodomy conviction, the legislature broadens the law to cover opposite-sex sodomy as well.


Doe v. Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Richmond, 403 F. Supp. 1199 (E.D. Va. 1975), the case which upheld Virginia’s sodomy law and which was summarily affirmed by the Supreme Court

Elvis Gene DePriest, et al. v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 2000
Upholds the Virginia sodomy law as constitutional. Significantly, it found that the specific cases of individuals charged with solicitation to commit sodomy had not established a presumption of privacy by seeking to commit sodomy in a public park. Their complaints were not allowed to be extended question the constitutionality of the sodomy law as applied to acts engaged in private.

Lawrence v. Texas, 2003
Found sodomy laws to be an unconstitutional violation of liberty when applied to non-commercial, consensual sex between adults in private. Virginia's fornication and cohabitation laws are also unconstitutional as a result of this opinion.

Repeal bills

2004 - Equality Virgina
HB 1054. Sodomy. Del. David Albo (R-Springfield)
This bill was advertised as "Sodomy reform" but instead it was an attempt to allow gay continued discrimination against gay and lesbian Virginians. While HB 1054 left the existing now-unconstitutional "Crimes Against Nature" untouched, it created a new statute allowing public sodomy to be treated as a Class 6 felony while all other non-violent public sexual activity is a misdemeanor. Although it passed the house on a "fast track" it was successfully defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee by a vote of 10-5. Equality Virginia had followed and lobbied for fair treatment under the law for over six months while the issue was first debated in the Crime Commission and then introduced as legislation.

Equality Virginia has decided not to have a repeal bill introduced in 2003, instead waiting to see the outcome of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas.

2000 Repeal bill HB 718
This bill, introduced by Delegate Darner, would reduce the penalties for consensual sodomy from a class 6 felony to a class 4 misdeamenor.

1997 Repeal bill HB 2718
This bill would legalize consensual adult sexual behavior for non-commercial purposes and would reiterate laws against child sexual abuse. Died in committee.

In 1996 the ACLU supported HB 1468, introduced by Delegate Darner, which would have legalized intimate sexual acts between consenting adults which are done in private and for non-commercial purposes. This bill was carried over to the 1997 session by the House Committee for Courts of Justice.






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Virginia Is Not For Lovers
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