Sign Up to Receive Email Action Alerts From Issa Exposed

Supreme Court declines to review constitutionality of Virginia sodomy law

LGBT Legal Cases

The Supreme Court began its first day of the new term this morning, with its release of order’s from last Friday’s private conference. The order list was primarily denials of review – no cases were granted today, though there were some orders in pending cases. The Court declined to review the Fourth Circuit decision that struck down Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law. The order list doesn’t note a reason for the denial, just simply that the petition for review was denied. It takes four Justices to grant review of a case.

The dispute involves an older man and underage girl who engaged in oral sex. The state charged the man under its sodomy statute, and eventually the courts were asked to decide whether under existing precedent the sodomy statute is constitutional. In Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ Homosexual Conduct law and in the process it eliminated the remaining state bans on sodomy. Virginia argued in court filings that their law should be upheld, and read to apply only to certain conduct. But the Lawrence precedent is clear, the Fourth Circuit held, and these types of laws aren’t applicable. Virginia can, of course, rewrite its law so that it’s limited to specific conduct the state can criminalize. Previous attempts to limit the statute were killed.

The state had an uphill battle getting the Supreme Court to agree to review the decision, since its holding flows directly from Lawrence and the Court hasn’t seemed willing to revisit that decision. Last year, the Court relied on it in part to strike down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had prevented the federal government from recognizing legally married same-sex couples.

Having technical problems? Visit our support page to report an issue!