Friday, February 07, 2014

Repeal of Virginia Fornication Law Fails

If one wants to know just how beholden the Republican Party is to the Christofascists in the party base, look no farther than the failed attempt to repeal a criminal statute on the books which makes having sex outside of marriage a crime. This antiquated statute is an embarrassment to Virginia, yet its repeal was killed by, you guessed it, the Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly.  The Virginia GOP has become a de facto sectarian party which takes its directions from The Family Foundation and other organizations that, if they had their way, would turn Virginia back into a modern day version of Puritan controlled Massachusetts in the 1600's.   It's the same mindset that keeps Virginia one of the most anti-gay states in America.  Here are highlights from a Virginian Pilot piece on the failed repeal effort:
Fornication is a term more often used in church than in court these days, but it still occupies space in Virginia’s criminal code and allows the state to fine anyone who has sex outside of marriage $250.

An effort to strike that part of the law failed in a House subcommittee Wednesday over concerns it would create loopholes for related statutes dealing with incest and other sex crimes.

HB914 was one of the last of a handful of bills this session seeking to eliminate antiquated tenets of Virginia law. Lawmakers also have rejected others looking to decriminalize suicide and adultery.
While prosecutions for the latter offenses are rare, they still occur. There were eight convictions for fornication last year, said Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax County, who chairs the House Constitutional Law Subcommittee, which struck down HB914.
The laws “represent a past that not everyone’s let go of,” a past that can take a long time to change, said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

Suicide is a common-law crime with no set penalty. Adultery is a misdemeanor, punishable, like fornication, by a $250 fine.

Prosecutors sometimes use the charges in plea agreements when the original offenses were more severe, according to the subcommittee’s legal counsel. The U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated state laws penalizing sexual behavior between two consenting adults, Gastañaga said. Adultery instead is most often used as a weapon in divorce and custody proceedings, she added.

“This is just cleaning up the code,” Gastañaga said Wednesday in support of HB914. “You put your hand on the Bible and took an oath to uphold the constitution. … You didn’t agree to uphold the Bible.”

One morality bill that is making progress is SB14, which would decriminalize sodomy between consenting adults. The Senate Courts of Justice and Finance committees already have approved the measure, which may get a floor vote as soon as Friday.  If passed by that chamber, SB14 still will have to survive the conservative House Courts of Justice Committee.

Don't hold your breath on SB14 making it through the GOP controlled House of Delegates.  Without a doubt Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation has issued an order for the bill to be killed.  Never mind that the current sodomy statute has been ruled unconstitutional twice.  Virginia will not truly move into the 21st century until the power of The Family Foundation is broken.

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