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ACLU: Nevada’s ‘infamous crime against nature’ statute targets gay teens

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
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LAS VEGAS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada wants a federal court to declare unconstitutional a state law that criminalizes consensual sex between same-sex teenagers as a “crime against nature.”

The lawsuit claims that Nevada’s “infamous crime against nature” statute creates a double standard that treats identical conduct differently based solely on whether the sexual activity involves same-sex or different-sex couples.

While the age of consent to engage in sexual activity in Nevada is 16, the statute criminalizes consensual sexual conduct with persons who are above the age of consent but under 18 if the conduct occurs between “persons of the same sex,” according to the ACLU. The law carries a possible five-year prison sentence.

Identical conduct between different-sex partners is not a crime.

On its face, the law discriminates based on sexual orientation in violation of the constitutional right to Equal Protection embodied in the 14th Amendment, the ACLU said, in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

ACLU legal chief Staci Pratt said Wednesday the civil rights lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on behalf of a “John Doe” plaintiff.

“Elko County prosecutors used the law to prosecute a minor for a consensual sexual relationship with another teenager even though both of them were above the age of consent. If the couple had been a boy and a girl rather than two boys, their conduct would not have been a crime. More than anything, this highlights the necessity of removing this discriminatory, homophobic relic from our statute books,” said Pratt.

The teen was arrested last year in Elko County on juvenile felony allegations that he violated a narrow provision of state law applying only to relationships between same-sex people from 16 to 18 years old.

The teen later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, but Pratt says the law is still on the books.

The suit seeks class-action status and names Elko County and District Attorney Mark Torvinen as defendants.

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