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Supreme Court rejects Va. request for stay on sodomy law

High court weighs petition to hear appeal of ruling overturning law

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

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has argued the Supreme Court Lawrence decision does not apply to sexual relations between an adult and a minor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday denied a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that a lower court ruling overturning the state’s sodomy law be put on hold while the Supreme Court decides whether to hear Cuccinelli’s appeal.

Roberts, acting on behalf of the full court, did not issue an explanation for his denial of the request for a stay of a decision in March by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond that declared Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature, or sodomy law, unconstitutional.

Cuccinelli asked the high court to put a stay on the Fourth Circuit ruling shortly after he filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear his appeal of the ruling. The high court was expected to decide later this year or early next year whether to hear the case. If it decides against hearing the case, the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court ruling remains in place.

That ruling overturned a felony conviction by a judge in the city of Colonial Heights, Va., of a 47-year-old man for soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old woman. Although no sex took place, the defendant, William Scott MacDonald, had been charged with soliciting someone to commit a sexual act that his attorneys argued was no longer illegal.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court agreed with his attorneys, ruling 3-1 that the 2003 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas invalidated the Virginia Crimes Against Nature law as “facially” unconstitutional, preventing it from being enforced, even in cases of consensual sodomy between an adult and a minor between the ages of 15 and 18. The judges noted that the age of sexual consent in Virginia is 15.

Cuccinelli has argued the Supreme Court Lawrence decision does not apply to sexual relations between an adult and a minor. He has stated in political ads in his campaign for governor that the sodomy law is needed to protect children from sexual predators. But attorneys and prosecutors familiar with Virginia’s criminal laws dispute that claim, saying existing state law allows for the prosecution of adults who engage in sex with minors.

The Fourth Circuit ruling said that while the Lawrence decision prohibited Virginia from applying the sodomy law in cases of consensual sex with someone between 15 and 18, it did not prevent the state legislature from enacting laws banning all sex between adults and people in that age range.

 

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Laurie Edwards

    August 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Ken Cuccinelli is a strange and frightening man. I pray the voters of Virginia are bright enough to refuse him the governor's mansion.

  2. Rob

    August 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

    As if anyone needs to “pray” its common sense, and I being a Virginia State resident find Cuccinelli appalling. Should this inbred moron become Governor, I intend to leave the commonwealth behind flipping the bird as I go.

  3. WlfSng

    August 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Why is he so obsessed with homosexuality?

  4. dr. bob brogna

    August 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Could it be “self loathing” over being a closet gay?

  5. Stanley James

    August 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

    AShole repubs – next they will want to go back to slavery and segregation. We should split VA into two states.

    The north which will be prosperous.

    Thee south which we will wall off as a prehistoric zoo.

  6. billy wingartenson

    August 13, 2013 at 1:07 am

    hatred mixed with southern baptist popualtion – the peoplw who drive around with signs on their cars – the south shall rise again

    Time we realize we are fighting the wrong war on terrorism – the religious nutjobs are here.

    Try btw Pat Roberson who said the Haitians deserve the terrible earthquake ( an appeal to the fools who support him to send more money like the old catholic BS of the past – pay to avoid going to purgatory – (buy indulgences)

    Then there was Huckabee (Fuckabee) who at a conference called renewing god in america said –
    “we’ve got to get them to pray – at the point of a gun if necessary

    which sounds like a take off from the chinese hitler – Mao Tse Tsung who said in the 1960s – political power comes out of the barrel of a gun

    BTW there were 14 of these conferences in the south – all sponsored by the hate group FRC

  7. Stanley James

    August 13, 2013 at 5:14 am

    BTW this reminds me of a scene in one of the carolinas a couple years ago – a black male age 17 got a BJ from an 18 year old white girl.

    he got sentenced to ove r10 years in prison. I think the sentence was commutted.

    this goes back to the days before 1967 when the supreme court trasshed the 16 remaining states laws that bnned inter-racial marriage (at the end of wwII it was 41 states).

    The realy big deal was some of those 16 states allowed black women to marry white men but not the reverse.

  8. Fausto Fernandez

    August 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    The age of consent in Virginia is 15? I doubt that very much. I believe it is 18. And many people here in Virginia think it should be 42.

  9. Butch

    August 13, 2013 at 9:08 am

    This man (and I use that term loosely), Cuccinelli is piece of crap floating in the toilet. We should stop giving him publicity! If we stop he will be forced to go away!

  10. Butch Peaston

    August 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    This POS need to drop dead! He needs to be put out of OUR MISERY.

  11. Cameron Robert

    August 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson, and Bob McDonnell are three of the most vile, bigoted scumbags in the Republican Party, and that's saying something. They need to be removed from office by any means necessary.

  12. Adam Everett Colclasure

    August 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    This idiot never was good with understanding what the word no means maybe he needs a dictionary.

  13. Morgan Hoover

    August 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    "Protecting children from sexual predators" just a Trojan Horse to attack adult gay male couples who have sex.

  14. Morgan Hoover

    August 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    In Maryland and other states, the minimum age of consent is 16. In MD,etc. a 16 year-old and his or her parents would have no legal grounds to scream about sex with an 18 year-old if the sex was consentual and not forced or coerced.

  15. Morgan Hoover

    August 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I will advocate for Northern Virginia to secede from Richmond if Ayatollah Cuccinelli is elected VA's next governor this fall. McAuliffe is not perfect but he is progressive and much more on the lgbt side that Ayatollah Ken ever will be.

  16. Sabrina Akins

    August 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Whew – glad that Cooch got smacked down. My homestate doesn't need any more embarrassment from this jackass.

    Back to campaigning against him.

  17. Sabrina Akins

    August 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    He only appeals to the far-righters in the mountains & far south of the state.
    I think it'll be close, but he'll lose – *very* few people, even Republican-voting folks I've come across & in polls, support him in Northern VA.

  18. Sabrina Akins

    August 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    I'll be looking to hop across the border into Maryland.

  19. Sabrina Akins

    August 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    It's definitely not 18. I thought it was 16. Either way, the young lady was over the age of consent any way you cut it. Although she is still a minor.

    If the 47 y/o had been brought up on stat rape charges, might have held – but "soliciting oral sex" failed.

  20. Morgan Hoover

    August 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Welcome to Maryland, far more officially progressive than Virginia plus Maryland has marriage equality and bans discrimination in housing, public accommodations and in hiring and firing on the basis of sexual orientation. All which Virginia lacks. Legally (LGBT-wise) these 2 neighboring states are as different as night and day (in favor of Maryland).
    I love Alexandria and want to live there BUT ONLY IF ALEXANDRIA AND THE REST OF NORTHERN VA UNHINGES ITSELF FROM CUCCINELLI-SATURATED RICHMOND AND EITHER JOINS MARYLAND OR BECOMES ITS OWN 51ST STATE WITH PRO-LGBT LAWS AND WITH A NORTHERN VIRGINIAN MARRIAGE EQUALITY LAW ON ITS BOOKS.

  21. Morgan Hoover

    August 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Sabrina Akins,
    The mountains in VA are beautiful and not all who live there are stereotypical right-wingers.

  22. Jim Clark

    August 30, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Crazy Ken should be trying to increase the age of consent to 18, which would be legal. Virginia has some of the least protective sexual assault statutes in the nation.

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National

Jim Obergefell announces bid for seat in Ohio state legislature

Marriage plaintiff moves on to new endeavor

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First Amendment Defense Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Obergefell has announced he'd seek a seat in the Ohio state legislature.

Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the litigation that ensured same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, announced on Tuesday he’d pursue a new endeavor and run for a seat in the state legislature in his home state of Ohio.

“You deserve a representative who does the right thing, no matter what. You deserve a representative who fights to make things better for everyone,” Obergefell said. “I’ve been part of a national civil rights case that made life better for millions of Americans. Simply put, I fight for what’s right and just.”

Obergefell, who claims residency in Sandusky, Ohio, is seeking a seat to represent 89th Ohio District, which comprises Erie and Ottawa Counties. A key portion of his announcement was devoted to vowing to protect the Great Lakes adjacent to Ohio.

“We need to invest in our Great Lake, protect our Great Lake, and make the nation envious that Ohio has smartly invested in one of the greatest freshwater assets in the world,” Obergefell said.

Obergefell was the named plaintiff in the consolidated litigation of plaintiffs seeking marriage rights that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 for same-sex marriage nationwide. Obergefell was widower to John Arthur, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and was seeking the right to be recognized as his spouse on his death certificate. The ruling in the consolidated cases ensured same-sex couples would enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage.

“We should all be able to participate fully in society and the economy, living in strong communities with great public schools, access to quality healthcare, and with well-paying jobs that allow us to stay in the community we love, with the family we care about,” Obergefell said in a statement on his candidacy.

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National

FDA-funded blood donation study recruiting gay, bi men

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker, L.A. LGBT Center working on study to ease restrictions

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gay blood ban, gay news, Washington Blade
A new study could make it easier for gay and bi men to donate blood.

D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Institute and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are among LGBTQ supportive organizations in eight U.S. cities working with the nation’s three largest blood donation centers on a study to find a way to significantly ease blood donation eligibility for men who have sex with men or MSM.

The study, which is funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calls for recruiting a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men in eight U.S. cities selected for the study to test the reliability of a detailed donor history questionnaire aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood.

A statement released by the study organizers says the questionnaire, which could be given to a gay or bisexual person showing up at a blood donation site, could be a replacement for the FDA’s current policy of banning men who have had sex with another man within the previous three months from donating blood.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the FDA put in place a permanent ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, with advanced HIV testing and screening techniques readily available, the FDA lifted its permanent ban on MSM blood donations and replaced it with a 12-month restriction for sexual activity between MSM.

The FDA further reduced the time of sexual abstinence for MSM to three months in 2020.

LGBTQ rights organizations and others advocating for a change in the current FDA restriction point out that at a time when the nation is facing a severe shortage of blood donations due to the COVID pandemic, the three-month donation deferral requirement for MSM is preventing a large number of blood donations from men whose risk of HIV infection is low to nonexistent.

Under the FDA-funded and initiated study, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood — the nation’s three largest blood donation centers — have been conducting the questionnaire testing since the study was launched in March 2021.

“To gather the necessary data, the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta,” the study organizers say in a statement on a website launched to help recruit volunteers for the study.

“The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria,” the statement says.

Among the criteria for being eligible, the statement says, is the person must be between 18 and 39 years old, have expressed an interest in donating blood, must have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining the study, and must agree to an HIV test. A negative test result is also required for acceptance into the study.

The study is officially named ADVANCE, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.

“The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply,” the study organizers statement says.

“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred,” the statement continues. “The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood,” the statement says.

The Whitman-Walker Institute, which is among the community-based organizations involved in helping organize and conduct the study, is an arm of Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive D.C. health center.

Christopher Cannon, director of Research Operations for Whitman-Walker Institute, said that since the D.C.-based part of the study was launched early last year prior to the official announcement of the study on March 20, D.C. has surpassed the original city goal of recruiting 250 participants for the study.

“We are currently at 276 as of last Friday’s report,” Cannon told the Blade in a Jan. 13 interview. “And the current goal is now 300,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to push this over that goal line in the coming days and weeks.

Cannon said that like the community organizations involved in the study in other cities, Whitman-Walker Institute’s role has been focused on recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the study and to send them to the American Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W. near the White House. That site, which serves as a blood donation center, is also serving as the site where study participants are screened, interviewed, and presented with a detailed questionnaire.

“We promote the study within Whitman-Walker,” Cannon said. “We promote it to our networks. We did social media promotions across the city.’

Although Whitman-Walker doesn’t have the final draft of the questionnaire being presented to study participants, Cannon said he has seen “bits and pieces” of it.  

“They ask very direct questions about the person’s sex life, sexual partners, sex acts, numbers of partners,” Cannon said. “There are questions about condom use, PrEP use, drug use. How recently have you had sex? Lots of related questions,” he said.

“It’s really about trying to figure out effectively which are the best questions,” according to Cannon. “The hope is by analyzing the questions and identifying maybe the best 10 to 12 questions that can be universally used…to get the best answers that identify the individuals that may have the highest risk,” he said. Doing that, he points, out can help determine which men who have sex with men should be eligible to safely donate blood.

A statement released by Whitman-Walker last March calls the study a “monumental research effort” that has the potential to lift the stigma imposed on gay and bisexual men whose ability to donate blood is currently based on their sexual orientation.

“The ADVANCE study is designed to understand if, by asking carefully crafted and research-informed research questions, blood collectors can screen potential blood donors for their individual HIV risk factors rather than applying a ban against sexually active gay and bisexual men,” the statement says.

“The goal is to move away from overly broad questions that exclude potential donors and spread stigmatizing messages about MSM and their HIV risks,” it says.

Cannon said that as of last week, study organizers had recruited a total of 879 study participants nationwide out of the goal of 2,000 participants needed to complete the study. He said issues related to the COVID pandemic created delays in the recruitment efforts, but study organizers were hopeful the study could be completed by this summer.

Information about participating in the study or learning more about it can be obtained at advancestudy.org.

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity

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Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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