Thursday, March 6, 2014

Virginia Legislature Unanimously Repeals Sodomy Ban

RICHMOND -- A bill passed by the Virginia House of Delegates Thursday will repeal the state's law that made oral and anal sex — even between consenting married couples — a felony. The measure which passed the state's Senate unanimously last month passed through the House of Delegates unanimously in a 100 to 0 vote. The bill now goes to Governor Terry McAuliffe, (D) for his signature.
The changes passed by the legislature Thursday will include sodomy in code used to prosecute rape, prostitution, sex acts involving children and other uncontested crimes, while limiting “crimes against nature” to bestiality and incest. 
This measure comes more than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas [2003] that states may not ban private non-commercial sex between consenting adults.
In the intervening years attempts were made to overhaul Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute including removal of the statute’s consensual sodomy provisions but were killed by the state's anti-LGBT lawmakers supported by the leading opponent of such changes, the Richmond-based anti-LGBT group Family Foundation of Virginia.  
One of those lawmakers- later elected Virginia Attorney General- Ken Cuccinelli II, was forced to defend the statue after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond in 2013 ruled that the law and the conviction were unconstitutional in a case brought by a man convicted under the law of soliciting a 17-year-old female for oral sex.
The appellate court found that because that law — first enacted in 1950 to prohibit oral and anal sex, as well as bestiality — had not been updated, it was unenforceable under Lawrence v. Texas. The court's ruling however caused a problem whereby the convictions of other sexual offenders and child predators at risk.
A bill filed in the General Assembly in December to effect a change to prevent sexual offenders and child predators from winning release on appeal of that law by Senator Thomas A. Garrett (R) would have eliminated the ban on adult consensual sodomy, but would have made oral sex between 17-year-olds a felony, even if they were legally married.
That oversight caused an uproar over whether the real goal of the legislation was a blatant attempt to recriminalize homosexuality.
That issue was later resolved in committee.
More than a decade after the Lawrence decision, several other states still have sodomy bans on the books, including Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. A lawmaker in Louisiana is pushing to undo that state’s ban but faces opposition from social conservative groups.