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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Va. sodomy laws
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. — A long-standing “Crimes against Nature” law, which criminalized anal and oral sex in Virgina, has been found unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declared that the Virginia law violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationally in 2003, the ACLU said Virginia had been using broad sodomy laws to prosecute people for constitutionally protected conduct.

“It is shameful that Virginia continued to prosecute individuals under the sodomy statute for 10 years after the Supreme Court held that such laws are unconstitutional,” said Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to invalidate the law.

Glenburg said Virginia prosecutors had been using the sodomy law to “prosecute people who were accused of engaging in oral or anal sex with minors, or soliciting in public.” And when challenged, the Virginia courts said there was no standing to challenge the law because the specifics of the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas law dealt with consenting adults.

“This ruling should bring an end to such prosecutions,” said Glenberg.

Because the 4th circuit hadn’t taken a case like this before, Glenberg said the certainty of the court striking down the law was in question. But after hearing arguments in the case, she was reassured that it would be struck down.

The case that made its way to the 4th district, MacDonald v. Virginia, details William Scott MacDonald’s 2005 conviction for criminal solicitation. MacDonald had vaginal intercourse and oral sex with two fellow volunteer firefighters from 2002-2004. The sex was consensual, however the two girls MacDonald engaged with were 16 and 17.

The age of consent in Virginia is 15, but the public nature of where the sex acts took place complicated the issue. McDonald was convicted on the theory that the Lawrence case did not apply to sodomy involving minors. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail, with 17 years suspended.

The appeals court noted that Virginia does have a law prohibiting an adult from soliciting sodomy from anyone under age 15, but MacDonald could not be charged with violating that statute because his accuser was 17.

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11 more reader comments:

  1. 2-1 panel? 1? Really?

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:04pm
  2. Another reason I hate Virginia

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:06pm
  3. At least it got struck down. That’s silly. It’s not like only homosexuals have oral and anal sex. Idiots.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:09pm
  4. Calling the original law makers idiots. Just to be clear.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:09pm
  5. Wow I guess Virginia is like Mississippi decades pass before they correct outdated laws.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:16pm
  6. Striking that the age of consent is 15….

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:21pm
  7. Virginia, sometimes you get it right!

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:22pm
  8. wow, what century are we living in

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:23pm
  9. “crimes against nature?” oh, like getting a vaccine, flying on an airplane, or wearing polyester

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:24pm
  10. but, but…when my lesbian tongue enters another woman’s ‘sacred cave’ ,or when her tongue enters mine, it enrages God who then sends hurricanes in Virginia’s direction! These laws should NEVER have been found unconstitutional in a Christian nation whose founding documents clearly define it as such! These judges have doomed all Virginians and vagitarians to floods, swarms of locusts, and zombies that try to play violin!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:46pm
  11. I’m lost… I was under the impression that all anti-sodomy laws were stuck down by the US Supreme Court when they dealt with the Texas laws a few years ago.

    Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 3:53pm