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Virginia is for Lovers Again as State Repeals its Sodomy Ban

Virginia is for Lovers Again as State Repeals its Sodomy Ban

Virginia’s General Assembly last week approved by unanimous vote a bill that would repeal the state’s sodomy ban, a provision that historically has been used to make being gay a crime.

Lawmakers voted 100 to 0 to approve language that will decriminalize non-commercial sodomy between consenting adults in private quarters. The move essentially repeals the state’s last overtly discriminatory elements of the Virginia Crimes Against Nature statute.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that states cannot ban private consensual sex between adults. This rendered laws like Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute, which even made non-vaginal sex between heterosexual married couples a felony, as unenforceable. Nevertheless, Republicans in the legislature repeatedly thwarted attempts to repeal the statute.

Things came to a head over the past few years when religious conservative posterboy Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli attempted to argue in the courts that he should be allowed to use the Crimes Against Nature law to prosecute cases. Recent convictions under the law were overturned and Cuccinelli repeatedly lost in the courts.

Legislators then issued a bill that would have explicitly stated that adults could not be prosecuted for private consensual non-commercial acts but, as reported at the time, the legislation was so poorly formulated that it had the unintended consequence of making felons out of 17 year old heterosexuals, who are allowed to marry in the state, simply for engaging in non-vaginal sex. The bill also penalized gay young people because of the bill’s reliance on vaginal intercourse as a standard of propriety.

After a huge outcry the legislation was redrafted so that it doesn’t have the issues mentioned above and is now no longer propping up the anti-gay aspects of the Crimes Against Nature statute. Now, the law will focus solely on bestiality and incest. The Senate has previously voted to pass the legislation, and so this means that Virginia’s sodomy ban should soon be repealed.

“The bottom line is that the General Assembly made great progress for treating sex as sex and applying the same criminal laws regardless of what kind of sex somebody is having,” Claire Gastanaga, director of the ACLU of Virginia, is quoted as saying. “In terms of making it clear that it’s not a criminal act for two adults to have oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own home or some other private space, it accomplishes that.”

Sodomy bans remain on the books in a number of states beside Virginia, including: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

Some state administrations will not even conscience repealing their sodomy bans, but there are efforts in states like Louisiana to do just that. Unfortunately, and despite recent examples of the statute being applied to prosecute gay men, Republican lawmakers who control the legislature have refused to allow the legislation to the floor.

Of course, Virginia’s progress could not have been accomplished while Ken Cuccinelli was still the state’s attorney general or while Bob McDonnell was still governor. Fortunately, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe is now expected to sign the bill in due course, at last consigning a shameful piece of morality policing to the history books.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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10:55PM PDT on Mar 17, 2014

k, thanks.

2:21PM PDT on Mar 16, 2014


1:38PM PDT on Mar 16, 2014

Thanks, what took them so long???????????????

9:49PM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Thanks for sharing. I shouldn't be shocked by the news of the bill. I thought we were more advance in accepting not just gay rights, but human rights.

4:52PM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Wow! Sodomy ban is related to gay rights, but not exclusively homosexual issue.

10:33AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Mr.Cuccinelli and Bill R. will be so very disappointed...

10:32AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

I'm just gonna say is the bloody 21st century after all.

9:08AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

People's preoccupation with the sexual preferences of others is starting to annoy me. This writer's insistence of describing lengthy and boring procedures that interest no one is pathetic.
When was the last time a man was charged with sodomy in Virginia? Be honest! Where is a link I can trust?

7:27AM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

Good news.
Ron, you are welcome to your beliefs and opinions but until you can prove them they are nothing more than beliefs. One can have no reasonable discourse with you because your opinions are not supported by fact. The only way for you to have a discussion is with other believers. I for one, when I see someone expounding on their beliefs to support their position on an issue, is to not waste my time reading the post. I respect your faith but I do not share it.

7:12PM PDT on Mar 13, 2014


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