Armed with U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Sodomy Laws Nationwide, Lambda Legal Will Appeal the Solicitation of Sodomy Conviction of Virginia Beach Man Monday
(Virginia Beach, Virginia, July 9, 2004) -With court papers that will be filed Monday in the Virginia Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal will appeal the conviction of a man who was 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.
“This sodomy law is dead, and that means you can’t convict 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 was a rogue prosecution under a law that no longer exists.”
Earlier this year, Joel Singson was convicted of solicitation to commit sodomy. The incident began after a discussion with an undercover police officer in the men’s room of a store in a Virginia Beach mall, which the officer said led him to believe Singson requested an act of sodomy. Singson was taken by two officers to the back of the store, questioned and released. He was charged several months later and spent 8 days in jail. If Singson loses at the end of the appeal process, he faces a three-year jail sentence with two and a half years suspended.
In the appeal, Lambda Legal argues that the lower court should have dismissed the case in light of the Supreme Court decision in the Lawrence v. Texas case striking down all remaining sodomy laws across the country.
Lambda Legal, which was lead counsel on the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging sodomy laws that was decided over a year ago, 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 public sex, as long as those laws apply to all people and are enforced equally, Lambda Legal said.
Lambda Legal pointed to a similar case in New York over two decades 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 the Lawrence case, 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 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. Richmond attorney Jay Squires is Lambda Legal’s cooperating attorney in the case.
Contact: Lisa Hardaway 212-809-8585 X266; pgr: 888-987-1971
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/MakingHistory.