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Federal appeals court overturns Virginia anti-sodomy law

A three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF] a Virginia anti-sodomy law on Tuesday, a decade after it was invalidated by a US Supreme Court [official website] decision in Lawrence v. Texas [opinion]. The decision [WP report] was the result of William MacDonald's appeal of his 2005 criminal conviction for violating Virginia's criminal solicitation statute, which made it illegal when "[a]ny person age eighteen or older who commands, entreats, or otherwise attempts to persuade another person under age eighteen to commit a felony other than murder." Macdonald was convicted of attempting to convince a minor female to engage in oral sex, which the state's sodomy law had regarded a felony. Macdonald argued that since oral sex was no longer a felony, neither should his solicitation be. The court agreed, voting 2-1 in favor of declaring the law unconstitutional. The lone dissenting voice in the opinion was unwilling to overturn the law as he felt that the law's purpose of protecting minors was sufficient in justifying the its continued enforcement.

The decision in Lawrence v. Texas also figures to weigh heavily in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [brief, PDF] case, US v. Windsor [docket], and the Proposition 8 [brief, PDF] case, Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket], which the Supreme Court agreed to decide [JURIST report] in December. The court will hear oral arguments in both those cases later this month [Washington Times report]. The Virginia Supreme Court had previously used the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2005 to overturn [JURIST report] its "singles sex law" which made consensual sex between unmarried adults illegal.

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