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Breaking: 4th Circuit strikes down Virginia's sodomy laws

RICHMOND, Va. -- A long-standing “Crimes against Nature” law, which criminalized anal and oral sex in the Commonwealth, has been found unconstitutional by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though the US Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws nationally in 2003, the VA ACLU said Virginia had been using broad sodomy laws to prosecute people for constitutionally protected conduct. “You have to have statutes that are narrowly targeted to the criminal conduct and that don’t encompass a great deal of constitutionally protected conduct,” said VA ACLU Lawyer Rebecca Glenburg.

For example, said Glenburg, a state cannot make all sex illegal, and then charge someone who’s having sex with a minor for “having sex.”

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 VA courts said there was no standing to challenge the law because the specifics of the 2003 Lawrence V. Texas law dealt with consenting adults. “Since you have no standing to challenge the law, you can be convicited under it,” said Glenburg.

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