The Virginia House of Delegates passed, 100 to 0, a bill Thursday that will finally eliminate an unconstitutional sodomy ban than made oral and anal sex — even between consenting married couples — a felony. The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously last month, will now go to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) for his signature.
After years of unsuccessful attempts to repeal the law, in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling held that states may not ban private non-commercial sex between consenting adults. Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute, which made oral sex (even between consenting married couples) a felony, was clearly the sort of legislation the Court was referencing. But a year later the Republican-controlled state legislature killed a bill to update the law and remove the statute’s consensual sodomy provisions. Virginia’s leading anti-LGBT forces opposed the update.
Last year, the federal courts overturned the conviction of a man charged, under Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature law, of soliciting a 17-year-old female for oral sex — a felony under the statute. Because that law — first enacted in 1950 to prohibit oral and anal sex, as well as bestiality — had not been updated, the court ruled it was unenforceable, putting the convictions of other sexual offenders and child predators at risk.
In response, Sen. Thomas A. Garrett (R) filed a bill in December that 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. After ThinkProgress reported on this possibly unintended consequence, Garrett and the Senate Courts of Justice Committee agreed on a substitute version that generally treats all sex equally.
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.