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Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals declines to revisit decision striking down Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law


By Scottie Thomaston

In March, EqualityOnTrial covered the decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that struck down Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law. The Virginia case involved an older man and an underage girl. But the Supreme Court struck down these so-called “sodomy laws” in Lawrence v. Texas as a violation of the liberty of gays and lesbians to form relationships. Many of these laws have remained on the books even after Lawrence.

After the Fourth Circuit struck down Virginia’s law, the state’s attorney general asked that court for en banc review with all the Fourth Circuit judges. He has argued that Lawrence did not say that sodomy laws couldn’t be enforced against underage sexual activity, only same-sex consensual activity.

On Monday the Fourth Circuit declined to rehear the case en banc. Virginia’s attorney general could petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision. Virginia’s legislature could also rewrite the law, ensuring that it only applies to conduct outside the reach of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision.


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