WEIRD VIRGINIA LAWS

Virginia is for Lovers has been the tourism and travel slogan of the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1969. In some ways that just isn't true. Virginia has some of America's strangest and most restrictive laws regarding its citizen’s love lives. Last spring, the Virginia House of Delegates finally passed a bill that eliminated Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute, which made oral sex (even between consenting married couples) a felony. As crazy as it sounds, until last year oral sex of any kind between any two consenting people was illegal. Virginia lawmakers passed the law in 1950 and swept oral and anal sex in with bestiality as prohibited acts. Even more shocking until an appellate court decision in 2005 Virginia had an anti-fornication law that made it a class 4 misdemeanor for an unmarried person to have "sexual intercourse with any other person."

Federal courts have scorned state sodomy laws for years. In 2003 the United States Supreme Court held that states cannot ban private non-commercial sex between consenting adults. Undeterred Virginia held onto its crazy law and continued to prosecute people for violations. Specifically, because the US Supreme Court mentioned "adults" prosecutors continued to charge consenting 17 year olds with felonies for having consensual oral sex.

Finally, in 2013 a federal appellate court directly held that the Crimes Against Nature law was unconstitutional. Refusing to give in, Virginia's notoriously conservative Attorney General filed a cert petition in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to reverse that decision. Thankfully the Supreme Court rejected his application and the legislature repeal of the bill made the issue moot.

Despite that, Virginia laws still seem to uphold the institution of marriage. Since 1877 it had been a jail-able criminal offense for unwed couples to live together. That ban was just lifted in 2013. Code 18.2-365 still provides that "any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor." Cheating in Virginia isn't just wrong it's a crime.

As strange as these laws may sound they are not often enforced. Nonetheless, their long existence and lawmakers hesitancy to revoke them illustrates Virginia's antiquated legal opinions on private matters.

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