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Virginia is Facing an Oral Sex Emergency, Apparently

Virginia is Facing an Oral Sex Emergency, Apparently

Republicans in Virginia are proposing a new “emergency” bill they say is necessary to stop sex offenses but which critics point out would make felons out of teenagers and would serve to partially revive the state’s sodomy ban.

Regular readers will remember that in 2013 Virginia became the state that wanted to revive its sodomy statutes, thanks to several unsuccessful appeals by the then Attorney General (and rabidly anti-gay religious conservative) Ken Cuccinelli. With Cuccinelli to depart from his role as AG this month, we might have thought the campaign was at an end. Sadly not.

Republican State Senator Thomas A. Garrett, good friends with Mr Cuccinelli, has authored a bill that he says would reenact the law, but with a few changes. The bill (S.B. 14) contains much of the language from the original Crimes Against Nature statute but does make clear that the bill doesn’t explicitly ban gay sex. According to the bill summary, the legislation:

Clarifies that engaging in consensual sodomy is not a crime if all persons participating are adults, are not in a public place, and are not committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, aiding, or abetting any act in furtherance of prostitution. The bill states that an emergency exists and it is in force from its passage.

As Garrett has been pointing out to his critics, the legislation as amended would technically allow oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults. The legislation doesn’t make that a crime — in most cases. However, the bill marks oral and anal sex as being different from vaginal intercourse and uses higher penalties for non-vaginal sex when the law is violated. Already, there’s cause for concern. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

While Virginia law allows 16 or 17 year olds to marry, ThinkProgress rightly points out that this bill would make such teenagers felons if they were to engage in non-vaginal sex even in their own homes. Once again, as same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Virginia at any age, two same-gender teenagers engaging in or asking for sex would therefore be guilty of a Class 5 felony — the same kind of status given to some domestic abuse cases.

What’s more, technically, the bill could make felons of two teenagers even talking about having non-vaginal sex in a manner that could be reasonably deemed as a proposition.

Of course, Garrett is defending the bill as a way to protect children, though his interest all seems to be in boosting a falling conviction rate, which is of course precisely what Cuccinelli argued last year. To understand how we got here and why this legislation is quite so ridiculous, here’s what led to the bill:

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2003 that states cannot ban private sexual acts between consenting adults. This served to make all of America’s sodomy bans unconstitutional, including Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature law that once served to ban oral and anal sex across the board. The law was also used to dole out heavier penalties to sex offenders, such as men who engaged in sexual activity with minors. That application was also rendered constitutionally unsound.

Not ready to let the law die completely, conservative Virginia state lawmakers have prevented the ban from being removed from the books and so there it sits, unenforceable but still written in Virginia state law.

Then, recently, when a 47-year-old man was convicted under that law for propositioning a 17-year-old for oral sex, the defendant in that case challenged the conviction (MacDonald v. Moose) because the statute should not have been invoked.

The then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli attempted to argue that he should be allowed to use this ban in order to prevent minors from being sexually assaulted, and he ran a high profiled campaign for governorship largely on the platform that he was trying to reinstate the Crimes Against Nature statute to protect children from sexual predators.

In reality, critics charged, Cuccinelli was attempting to regulate private consensual acts and potentially was building a framework to attack the gay community, whose rights he had already rolled back significantly during his tenure as an attorney general. Cuccinelli found little favor among the courts, or among Virginia voters, so the ban remains unusable. So, into the breach has gone Senator Garrett and his SB 14.

Though Senator Garrett believes this is a perfectly reasonable bill, its impact on the state could be anything but reasonable, and the fact that it de facto penalizes same-sex couples and non-heterosexual individuals in a way that is more severe than heterosexuals is a testament to how poorly thought out this legislation is.

Fortunately, and because of the way this legislation so blatantly affronts civil rights, there is little reason to think it could pass a constitutional challenge. Garrett seems to have got that message, at least, and is reported to be drafting an amendment to the legislation that would deal with the “unintended consequences” of the bill.

Critics of the bill charge that nothing short of scrapping the legislation will be enough, however.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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187 comments

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3:43PM PDT on Apr 30, 2014

pam w, it would have been impossible to enforce this kind of a law. How in the world would they have monitored what goes on in the bedroom? Send out the Peeping Tom Police?

Dennis D, Bill R never found this thread it appears. It is safe from his blaming President Obama for everything as he does on the other oral sex thread.

1:39AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

It they're going to start arresting teens for talking about non-vaginal sex, they'd better brace for the incarceration of a generation. And many experts attribute the declining teen pregnancy rate to teens' greater acceptance of non-vaginal sex.

There are many, many ways to prosecute those who sexually abuse children. A lack of sodomy laws is not a barrier.

I think it's logical to conclude that someone interested in banning oral or anal sex has never enjoyed it. And as idiotic as I think this guy is, I can't help but feel slightly sorry for him, for apparently falling into that category.

6:25AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

(Scott, they're probably too busy fighting the EMERGENCY. People having oral sex everywhere! GASP!)

4:35AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

I always thought that when the Supreme Court ruled, that was it. There is no higher legal authority. Apparently Virginia didn't get that memo.

6:22AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

The need for a law about this is ridiculous!

4:41AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Weird. Thanks for sharing.

3:41AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

As long as sex is not with a minor and its not rape and two adults are happy to go ahead with it. Its no ones business. Regardless if there a same sex couple or not. If it was a bill to fight children abuse none of this would need to be mentioned. Think he is homophobic and if that's the case. That's his choice but personal views cant be brought in to work and try and enforce them. Just cause you don't like how some people live.

8:21PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

So, is the emergency too much oral sex or not enough?

The plight of any individual to be ruled by the insane is the type of government that was voted for. If you elect it you have to live with it or get rid of it.

3:55PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Huh??? These folks are bizarre!

2:22PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

The Repugs of Virginia are hoping to take over the world and make it their own with help of the elites, corporations and the sudden surge in religion just in time to save us all

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