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.