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Court strikes down Va. sodomy law

Ruling in case of straight man said to apply to gays

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Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade
Supreme Court, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional back in 2003, but such laws remain on the books in some states. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A federal appeals court handed down a 2-1 decision on Tuesday striking down a section of Virginia’s “Crimes Against Nature” statute that outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, gay or straight.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in a case in which a 37-year-old married man was charged in 2005 with soliciting another woman, who was 17, to engage in oral sex.

William Scott MacDonald, who lived at the time in the City of Colonial Heights, was convicted of a misdemeanor offense of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and of a felony offense of solicitation for sodomy.

The 4th Circuit federal appeals panel overturned his conviction by a trial judge on the solicitation charge and reversed two lower court rulings that upheld the trial court decision – all on grounds that the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Lawrence v. Texas rendered the Virginia anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.

“It is shameful that Virginia continued to prosecute individuals under the sodomy statute for ten years after the Supreme Court held that such laws are unconstitutional,” said Rebecca Glenberg in a statement on behalf of the ACLU of Virginia. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting MacDonald’s appeal.

“This ruling brings an end to such prosecutions,” she said

The New York-based gay litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund also submitted a friend-of-the-court, or amicus, brief on MacDonald’s behalf, according to a notation on the federal appeals court’s 30-page opinion.

A spokesperson for Lambda couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“In Lawrence, the Supreme Court plainly held that statutes criminalizing private acts of consensual sodomy between adults are inconsistent with the protections of liberty assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” said the majority opinion in Tuesday’s appeals court ruling.

Judge Robert King, who wrote the majority opinion, and Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, who joined King in the ruling, rejected arguments by the Virginia Attorney General’s office and rulings by two lower courts that the Lawrence decision didn’t apply to cases involving minors.

King noted in his opinion that current Virginia law, under the parameters of the Lawrence decision, can only prohibit an adult from soliciting sodomy from someone under the age of 15, which is the legal age of consent in the state.

“Thus, although the Virginia General Assembly might be entitled to enact a statute specifically outlawing sodomy between an adult and an older minor, it has not seen fit to do so,” he wrote in his opinion.

Brian Gottstein, a spokesperson for the Virginia Attorney General’s office, told the Richmond Times Dispatch the office “was reviewing the decision and will consider our options.”

The Times Dispatch reported that MacDonald and his wife have since moved to North Carolina. The paper reported that the wife, Carolynn MacDonald, said her husband is a combat veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He’s enjoying today, but having a difficult time with it,” the Times Dispatch quoted her as saying.

In its summary of the background of the case, the 4th Circuit Appeals Court opinion states that it was MacDonald who triggered an investigation that led to his arrest. It cites trial court records as showing the 17-year-old girl turned down MacDonald’s request that she perform oral sex on him and appeared to let the matter drop.

But according to court records, MacDonald later called the police to report that the 17-year-old solicited him for sex. In an official police report, he told a detective that the 17-year-old “forcibly removed his penis from his pants and performed oral sex against his will.”

After interviewing the 17-year-old, the detective determined that her strong denials that she sought to have sex with MacDonald had far more credibility than MacDonald’s allegations. The detective obtained warrants for MacDonald’s arrest, starting the chain of events that led to Tuesday’s court ruling overturning the state sodomy law.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Xgay Greg

    March 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    I used to be addicted to men, but 7 years ago Jesus set me FREE!(YouTube video) I made the switch from being married to my first wife by ditching her and our 2 sons to go into the gay life-choice. Today I am FREE, DELIVERED and married to a beautiful woman of God. I won't go back! ALL HAIL KING JESUS!

    • Marion Nelson

      April 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Okay, let me see if I am hearing this right. You claim you used to be gay but chose to be straight through some magic mojo. When did this occur? About the time you realized you were too old to get laid in the gay community or was it when you realized how much money your loser life could get by claiming this lie? Dude, I KNOW BETTER, YOU KNOW BETTER, AND WORST OF ALL YOU ARE PROFITING OFF OTHERS WITH YOUR LIES. Go sit down, nobody in their right mind believes this bs.

  2. George Bakan

    March 14, 2013 at 2:13 am

    … the logic is simple, the right of consenting adults to seek their mutual pleasures as they wish. NO state interest at all. Shut the bedroom door to the police.

  3. Marion Nelson

    April 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Just one more reason to drive around the state rather than through it. I already won't spend any money there but the very thought that even sales tax on a cup of coffee might help keep this type hate alive makes me sick.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9

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David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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