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Supreme Court denies Cuccinelli appeal of Va. sodomy law ruling

Action upholds lower court ruling striking down law

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

The high court declined to hear a case brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli related to the commonwealth’s sodomy law. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli seeking to appeal a lower court ruling declaring the state’s Crimes Against Nature or sodomy law unconstitutional.

By refusing to hear the case, the high court allowed a decision in March striking down the law by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond to stand, ending efforts by Cuccinelli and other officials to get the state’s ban on oral and anal sex between consenting adults reinstated.

“Under any circumstances this is definitely a victory and it’s a good one,” said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “It puts to rest this idea that somehow you can have a statute that’s found unconstitutional but you can still be prosecuted under it.”

Gastanaga was referring to the Supreme Court’s landmark 2003 decision of Lawrence v. Texas that overturned state sodomy laws. A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals cited the Lawrence decision as the basis for its decision in March to overturn Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature statute, saying it could no longer be enforced under any circumstances.

Cuccinelli has contended that the Lawrence decision doesn’t apply to cases involving sex between adults and minors. As a candidate for governor, Cuccinelli launched a special campaign website earlier this year claiming removal of the sodomy law would prevent law enforcement officials from prosecuting “child predators.”

LGBT rights attorneys have disputed that claim, saying existing state laws enable police and prosecutors to arrest and prosecute anyone who sexually abuses a minor.

The Fourth Circuit appeals court decision struck down 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 under the Lawrence decision.

In its 2-1 ruling, the appeals court panel declared that the Lawrence decision 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 if the minor is between the ages of 15 and 18. The judges noted that the age of sexual consent in Virginia is 15.

Cuccinelli’s office issued a statement on Monday saying the elimination of the sodomy law “puts tools prosecutors need to protect children in jeopardy.”

According to the statement, Cuccinelli’s efforts to keep the law on the books “was never about sexual orientation or private acts between consenting adults” but instead was about enabling law enforcement officials to “prosecute child predators.”

Attorneys familiar with the case — including prosecutors in Arlington and Alexandria — have said existing state laws give law enforcement officials the ability to prosecute all cases of forcible or coerced sex between an adult and a minor as a felony. They say that heterosexual intercourse between a minor within the age range of 15 through 17 and an adult can still be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. But with the elimination of the state sodomy law, consenting oral or anal sex among minors — gay or straight — between age 15 and 17 and an adult is fully legal and can’t be prosecuted until or unless the legislature changes the law.

Gastanaga and others familiar with Cuccinelli’s concerns have called on the Virginia General Assembly to revise the existing laws addressing the age of consent or sex with minors in a way that doesn’t violate the Constitution as spelled out in the Lawrence decision.

“That means you’ve got to do the hard work of getting together with the Commonwealth’s Attorneys and public defenders and other criminal defense lawyers and legislators and people like us and try to work out something that does address what you want to address, which is sexual activity that is not constitutionally protected,” Gastanaga said.

James Parrish, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Virginia, said his organization would not oppose legislation that reforms existing laws to address potential problems resulting from the striking down of the sodomy law.

“This is something the Supreme Court decided now more than 10 years ago,” Parrish said. “We understand that the attorney general and others have some concerns of how the sodomy law was intertwined with other laws. They have had 10 years to make those laws more clear and we would hope they would work with the General Assembly to address these concerns” in a way that doesn’t violate the Lawrence decision’s protections pertaining to consenting adults, he said.

Although Cuccinelli criticized his Democratic opponent, businessman Terry McAuliffe, for expressing support for overturning the Virginia sodomy law, McAuliffe was leading Cuccinelli by a 42 to 37 percent margin in one of the most recent public opinion polls conducted by Virginia’s Hampton University.

Josh Schwerin, McAuliffe’s press secretary, said Cuccinelli demonstrated “an extreme agenda and uncompromising approach” by refusing in the past to support legislation to update Virginia’s laws to conform to the Supreme Court ruling on sodomy.

“Everyone supports strong laws to protect children and, like most Virginians, Terry believes our law should be updated to both conform with court rulings and allow prosecution of predators,” Schwerin said. “As he admitted as recently as 2009, Ken Cuccinelli is one of the only elected officials in America who believes that being gay should result in criminal prosecution and jail time,” he said.

Under the Supreme Court’s rules, at least four of the court’s nine justices must vote to hear a case in order for the court to consider a case on its merits. The court never discloses how individual justices vote or what the vote count was when it decides whether or not to take a case.

However, in August Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued a ruling denying a separate petition by Cuccinelli asking the court to put a stay on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down the Virginia sodomy law until the Supreme Court decided whether or not to take the case. Roberts did not issue an explanation for denying Cuccinelli’s request for a stay.

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

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

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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