Target: Senator Thomas A. Garrett (R-VA)
Goal: Withdraw unconstitutional bill from consideration by state legislature
Virginia’s Republican officials have taken it upon themselves to respond to the “emergency” concerning non-vaginal sex, according to Senator Thomas Garrett’s recent Senate Bill 14. The bill is intended to “amend and reenact” the state’s “crimes against nature” law (§ 18.2-361), which became unconstitutional in 2003 after the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy bans violate the Fourteenth Amendment because states have no jurisdiction over the private sexual lives of consenting adults. Virginia conservatives have fought to preserve it on the books ever since, even though the law cannot be enforced, and sex offenders continued to be convicted under an unconstitutional law; it was only a matter of time before someone challenged it. Then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli thought reviving the law after it was struck down was so important that he devoted nearly his entire gubernatorial campaign to the issue, and now his friend Senator Garrett has picked up the torch.
The bill contains all of the previous law’s language, with minor grammatical changes and a major caveat added to the first provision, which names anal and oral sex both as Class 6 felonies: the new text explains that the provision does not apply if you are consenting adults in private not involved in prostitution. Senator Garrett is arguing that this legislation is designed to protect children from sexual predators, but if that were the case, he would have written a new bill outlawing all sexual abuse of children – not just oral and anal sex. Keeping the language that labels oral and anal sex specifically as crimes against nature is discriminatory and violates due process by criminalizing the private sexual lives of LGBT youth in particular. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh pointed out that this law also encourages heterosexual teen couples to opt out of oral in favor of genital sex, which greatly increases chances of unwanted pregnancies or contracting diseases. Senator Garrett told the Huffington Post that he is working on an amendment to “deal with the unintended consequences,” but he should toss the old law if he is serious about protecting children, and not just discriminating against LGBT Virginians.
By signing this petition, you are urging Senator Garrett to scrap § 18.2-361 and write a new bill to keep children safe.
Dear Senator Garrett,
Senate Bill 14 is not only unconstitutional; it is both discriminatory and lazy to use language from § 18.2-361 labeling oral and anal sex as crimes against nature. You have said that this bill is about protecting children and that you are working on an amendment, but § 18.2-361 needs to be scrubbed from the books entirely. If you want to protect children, you should outlaw vaginal sex with minors as well. The longer you and the Virginia legislature wait, the more children will suffer and predators will go free.
I am calling on you to withdraw Senate Bill 14 and to write an entirely new bill without using language that discriminates against LGBT people, criminalizes LGBT teens, and encourages heterosexual teen couples to choose genital sex (therefore putting themselves at higher risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections). I am urging you to follow up on your conviction to protect children by drafting a bill that outlaws all sexual abuse of minors by adult predators.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: CiudadanoGay via Wikimedia Commons