Armed with U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Sodomy Laws Nationwide, Today Lambda Legal Helps Defend Virginia Man Against Rogue Sodomy Prosecution
(Virginia Beach, Virginia, October 29, 2003) - At a hearing in Virginia state court today, Lambda Legal will help defend a man who is charged with solicitation of sodomy despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last summer that clearly struck down all remaining sodomy laws in the nation.
Lambda Legal, which was lead counsel on the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging sodomy laws and argued that case earlier this year, said the Supreme Court’s ruling clearly struck down sodomy laws in all 13 states that still had them, including Virginia. Consequently, states cannot continue enforcing those laws or prosecuting people for attempting to violate them, although states can pass or enforce laws prohibiting truly public sex, as long as those laws apply to all people and are enforced equally, Lambda Legal said.
Joel Singson was charged with solicitation to commit sodomy after a discussion with an undercover police officer in the men’s room of a store in a Virginia Beach mall, which the officer claims led him to believe Singson requested an act of sodomy. The men were each in adjacent bathroom stalls with the doors closed. After Singson exited a stall, he was taken by two officers to the back of the store, questioned and released. He wasn’t charged until several months later.
“This sodomy law is dead, and that means you can’t charge someone for attempting to violate it or talking about violating it; there’s no law left to violate,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office and Lambda Legal’s lead attorney on the case. “This is a rogue prosecution under a law that no longer exists.”
Lambda Legal pointed to a similar case in New York several years ago, where the state’s sodomy law had been struck down and the state’s highest court later said that, as a result, it was unconstitutional to prosecute people for loitering for the purpose of soliciting sodomy. In today’s case, Lambda Legal said the Commonwealth of Virginia is asking the court to over-reach and essentially rewrite the state’s laws, when there are already valid laws on the books prohibiting a range of sexual conduct, including indecent exposure and prostitution, that were not invalidated by the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down all sodomy laws.
In the Supreme Court case that resulted in all sodomy laws nationwide being struck down, Lambda Legal represented John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Lawrence's Houston home and jailed overnight after officers responding to a false report from an acquaintance found the men engaged in private, consensual sex. Once convicted, they were forced to pay fines and were considered sex offenders in several states.
The case is Commonwealth of Virginia v. Joel Singson. Norfolk attorney Jennifer Stanton is Lambda Legal’s co-counsel in the case.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered people, and people with HIV or AIDS through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
For more on Lambda Legal’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory - and its broad long-term impact for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people’s equal rights nationwide - go to www.lambdalegal.org/ForgingANewEra.