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Cuccinelli challenges Va. sodomy ruling

Att’y gen’l asks appeals court for re-hearing of case

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Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is challenging a ruling that overturned the state’s sodomy law. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has filed a petition with the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond asking the full 15-judge court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel last month that overturned the state’s sodomy law.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on March 12 that a section of Virginia’s “Crimes Against Nature” statute that outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, gay or straight, is unconstitutional based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003 known as Lawrence v. Texas.

A clerk with the 4th Circuit appeals court said a representative of the Virginia Attorney General’s office filed the petition on Cuccinelli’s behalf on March 26. The petition requests what is known as an en banc hearing before the full 15 judges to reconsider the earlier ruling by the three-judge panel.

“We certainly hope they won’t,” said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, which filed a friend of the court brief urging the three-judge panel to overturn the state sodomy law.

“We think it’s a situation in which everybody agrees that the statute is unconstitutional,” Gastanaga told the Blade.

Greg Nevins, an attorney with the LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which joined the ACLU in filing the friend of the court brief calling for overturning the Virginia sodomy law, said requests for en banc hearings are turned down most of the time.

He quoted a federal appeals court rule as stating, “Although petitions for rehearing are filed in a great many cases, few are granted.”

Caroline Gibson, a spokesperson for Cuccinelli, told the Blade in an email that Cuccinelli believes the dissenting judge on the three-judge panel was correct in stating the Lawrence decision applies only to sex between consenting adults in private and doesn’t apply to cases involving a minor. The case in which the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Virginia sodomy law involved a man charged with soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old woman.

“We believe the panel decision was erroneous, and that the dissent correctly concludes that the petitioner was not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief, Gibson said, referring to the court’s decision to overturn the man’s conviction under the sodomy law. “So the full court should have the opportunity to decide this matter,” she said.

“Like most people, we think the court made the right decision,” said James Parrish, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Virginia.

“We think what needs to happen is the General Assembly needs to remove the current sodomy law that has been declared unconstitutional,” he said.

Parrish said Equality Virginia wouldn’t object to a careful revision by the legislature of the state’s criminal code to allow for continued prosecution of offenses such as sex with minors.

“What we’re saying is we agree with the court ruling that, in this case, the law was used unconstitutionally. The best course of action would be for the General Assembly to address that, just like they did with the cohabitation law that they took off the books this year,” he said.

“We think that’s a better recourse than the Attorney General filing another appeal and diverting precious state resources on an issue that the General Assembly should address because the court made the correct ruling on March 12,” Parris said.

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s gay, said he is looking into the issue and the possibility of introducing legislation to address it.

“I’m reviewing this and will consider introducing a bill next year to repeal the Virginia Crimes Against Nature law for consenting adults,” he told the Blade.

The March 12 ruling of the appeals court’s three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision upholding the conviction of a 37-year-old man charged in 2005 with soliciting a 17-year-old woman to engage in oral sex. No sexual encounter took place, records show.

The Attorney General’s office argued that the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision didn’t apply to cases involving minors. But 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Robert King, who wrote the majority opinion, said the Lawrence decision rendered the Virginia sodomy statue “facially” or completely unconstitutional.

He stated other laws could be used to prosecute an adult for engaging in sex with a minor and that the Virginia General Assembly would likely have authority under the Lawrence decision to pass a new law specifically outlawing sodomy between an adult and a minor.

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Maryland

Moore joins Democratic chorus endorsing Harris

Announcement comes day after Joe Biden ended 2024 campaign

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, left, applauds as Vice President Kamala Harris, right, endorses U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks last month. Moore is now endorsing Harris for president. (Photo by Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Banner)

BY PAMELA WOOD | Maryland Gov. Wes Moore joined the chorus of prominent Democrats backing Vice President Kamala Harris to be the party’s nominee on Monday.

In a statement, Moore said the vice president is the best choice for Democrats and the nation.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner website.

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District of Columbia

Trans woman announces candidacy for ANC race in Columbia Heights

D.C. government official to challenge gay incumbent

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Vida Rangel (Photo by Praddy Banerjee/@praddyban)

Vida Rangel, a transgender woman who currently serves as Director of Operations in the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments, has announced her candidacy for an Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood

In a statement released on July 11, Rangel said she is running for the ANC single member district seat of 1A10, which is currently held by first-term incumbent Billy Easley, who identifies as a gay man.

“I’m running a groundbreaking campaign as the first trans person of color who would be elected in the District of Columbia,” Rangel said in the statement. “Representation matters.”

Rangel’s statement says in her current city government job she is the ‘highest-ranking openly transgender official in D.C. government history.” If elected to the ANC, she said she would focus, among other things, on language access for Spanish speaking residents, affordable housing, and reliable and accessible public transportation.

“As an autistic, queer, nonbinary, transgender Latina woman, Rangel’s commitment to public service and community is shaped by her lived experience,” her campaign statement says. “Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Vida was raised by working parents and grandparents, along with her six siblings. She saw firsthand how social services and support could counterbalance devastating situations like a medical emergency, an unexpected bill, or even a misfiled form,” the statement says.

“My experiences ignited a fire, propelling me to fight for the rights of all communities, whether it be nondiscrimination protections, housing justice, access to education, worker’s rights, or voting rights,” she says in the statement.

Rengel could not immediately be reached for comment on whether she disagrees with any of the positions or actions taken by incumbent commissioner Easley.

Billy Easley (Photo courtesy of Easley)

In his successful campaign for the ANC 1A10 seat in the city’s 2022 election Easley stated in an online statement  “Together, we can make our streets safer and our community stronger. This neighborhood is where my husband and I met, it is where we fell in love, and it’s where we’ve lived for the last ten years.”

Easley told the Washington Blade in a July 19 phone interview that he has been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Ward 1 D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau, which Easley said was a recognition of his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In the last election I knocked on every door, and I’m going to do that again because it’s really important to me to connect with the voters and make sure that they’re being represented and to be an advocate for them,” he said. “Vida is a great person,” he added. “I have nothing bad to say about her,” he said.

“But I have a record of accomplishment and I’m going to be running on that,” he told the Blade. “And I’m going to be running on making sure that our residents’ voices are heard. So, I’m ready to go.”

He said his accomplishments in his first term in office include contacting each of the residents in his district who the city’s water department said may have lead pipes and  informing them how to get the pipes replaced through a free D.C. program; his appointment by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to her Juvenile Justice Advisory Group; organizing a Public Safety Summit with D.C. police and other city officials to address the issue of crime; and “successfully advocating” for more city funding for increased trash pick-up services in the neighborhood.

Easley points out that besides him, at least three other members of the 10-member ANC 1A10 identify as gay men.

Vincent Slatt, who serves as chair of the D.C. ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he believes between three and four-dozen ANC commissioners citywide are members of the LGBTQ community. 

“This is probably not the first time that two LGBTQ people have run against each other for an ANC seat,” Slatt told the Blade in a statement. “However, to have two out LGBTQ candidates of color in one race certainly seems like a milestone,” he said. “Recently, we have had two out trans ANCs. To have a third out trans candidate is a sign of how much further along our city is than other places in the country,” Slatt said. “Not fully enough, but on the path forward.”

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

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].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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