News (USA)

Va. legislature moves to strike sodomy ban from state code

RICHMOND, Va. — More than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy bans across the nation, the Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday voted unanimously to eliminate its ban on oral and anal sex — even between consenting married couples — from the state code.

Virginia state capitol in Richmond.
Virginia state capitol in Richmond.

The measure, approved by a vote of 100-0, passed on a similar unanimous vote in the state Senate last month, and now goes to Gov. 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, reported The Washington Post.

The measure comes more than a ten years after the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that states may not ban private 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 efforts were killed by the state lawmakers.

In 2013, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli defended the statue after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled the law was unconstitutional in a case brought by a man convicted of soliciting a 17-year-old female for oral sex.

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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.

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Cuccinelli’s request to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling.

Critics said Cuccinelli’s efforts were a blatant attempt to re-criminalize homosexuality.

While unenforceable, several states’ sodomy bans remain on the books, including in 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 the effort faces opposition from social conservative groups.

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