Last edited: November 23, 2003

Charlotte Attorney Calls for Change in North Carolina Laws Governing Public Sex

Seeks immediate legislative action in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Raymond A. Warren, November 13, 2003
309 East Morehead Street Suite 150
Post Office Box 36071
Charlotte, NC 28236
Tel: 704-714-4344, Fax: 866-779-3014

Charlotte attorney Ray Warren has sent a letter to North Carolina legislative leaders urging them to support immediate reform of the state’s laws governing sexuality. Warren’s initiative was spurred by the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling against state anti-sodomy laws. Warren, a former Superior Court Judge and a former state legislator, has convinced at least one Mecklenburg County District Court judge to declare the state’s current anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.

The exact status of the Crime Against Nature law was called into question in June when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lawrence v. Texas. After that decision, which reversed the conviction of two men convicted of violating Texas’ anti-sodomy law, many observers concluded that North Carolina’s anti-sodomy law was unconstitutional. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in some counties, however, have continued to enforce the law in settings other than private homes.

Warren and other critics of continued enforcement contend that the current law is enforced primarily against gay men and is unconstitutional in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Judicial reaction to continued attempts to enforce the law has been inconsistent. While one Mecklenburg County judge found the law to be unconstitutional, other trial judges have upheld the lawat least insofar as it involves alleged activity outside of private homes. One or more such cases is expected to be appealed to the state’s appellate courts and eventually to the United States Supreme Court for a definitive ruling.

Warren, who publicly announced he was gay while still a member of the state judiciary, is asking legislative leaders to support statutory changes to avoid court battles over the status of the Crime Against Nature law. He contends that laws can be enacted to protect children and other members of the public from unwanted or inappropriate public sexual activity without raising constitutional concerns. The legislature will be meeting in a special session later this month and Warren proposes that the new laws be enacted at that time.

Noting that the current Crime Against Nature law makes no distinction between public or private acts, Warren has proposed a series of statutory changes designed to specifically outlaw public sexual activity, without regard to gender or sexual orientation. He notes that there is no current state law banning public masturbation or public vaginal intercourse and that current prostitution laws specifically exclude sexual acts other than vaginal intercourse. In addition, the current indecent exposure law is limited to exposure to persons of the opposite gender. Warren proposes replacing the current Crime Against Nature law with new laws that would expand the kinds of sexual acts included in the definition of prostitution, make it a crime to publicly expose oneself in a sexually explicit manner to members of the same (as well as the opposite) gender and outlaw all forms of sexual activity in public places.

“These proposals are designed to protect children and others from inappropriate sexual activity without unconstitutionally singling out any specific classes of individuals for prosecution,” Warren said.

In addition to seeking support from state legislative leaders, Warren says he will also request the backing of state prosecutors and state’s law enforcement officials.

“There is no reason for civil rights activists and law enforcement to be on opposite sides in this matter,” Warren said. “We all want to protect the public, and working together we can do that in a manner that protects constitutional rights and ensures equality of treatment for all citizens.”

What the proposed changes to the law would do:

1. Repeal the current Crime Against Nature (anti-sodomy) law or limit its application to cases involving sex with animals.

2. Redefine prostitution to include other sex acts for hire, in addition to vaginal intercourse.

3. Create an offense of exposing oneself publicly to members of the same (as well as members of the opposite) gender with the specific intent to elicit or display sexual excitement or arousal.

4. Prohibit all sexual acts in public places.

The letters to Speakers Jim Black and Richard Morgan and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, the text of the proposed legislative changes and a question and answer explanation of the need for change can be viewed at

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