Legal Group Uses Supreme Court Ruling to Defend Public Solicitation of Sex

July 7, 2008 - 8:04 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A legal group opposed to sodomy laws is arguing that a Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas sodomy conviction opens the way for striking down all sodomy laws nationwide.

Patricia Logue, legal director of Lambda Legal, said the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas renders unconstitutional a case against a man accused of soliciting sodomy from an undercover police officer in a shopping mall bathroom in Virginia Beach, Va.

"If you have a law that says, basically, you can't have sex in a public park in front of other people, that's a different kind of law from a law that says you can never have oral sex with anyone, and what you have to prove for a conviction under one is very different from what you have to prove for a conviction under the other," Logue said.

Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, a conservative pro-family group that monitors challenges to sodomy statutes, said, however, that the Supreme Court ruling essentially deals with privacy issues and does not affect Virginia's sodomy statutes.

"Lambda and other so-called gay rights organizations have said for years that they want to protect the privacy of acting homosexuals in the privacy of their bedrooms. The problem is, they can't discern the difference between a private bedroom and a public restroom," Glover argued.

Circuit Judge Edward Hanson Jr. ruled last week that the June Supreme Court decision in Lawrence applied to sodomy that occurs in private, not sodomy that takes place in public.

Hanson therefore ruled that the trial of Joel Singson, who is accused of soliciting sodomy from an undercover police officer in March, could proceed.

Singson was charged with soliciting sodomy after a discussion with an undercover police officer in the men's room of a Virginia Beach mall. The officer testified that the sexual act was to take place in one of the bathroom stalls.

Harvey Bryant, commonwealth's attorney for the city of Virginia Beach, argued that prosecution under Virginia's criminal statute is still viable and should not be declared unconstitutional.

Bryant argued that the Supreme Court specifically pointed out its ruling in the Texas case did not involve public conduct.

The Singson case is one of two cases being prosecuted under Virginia's sodomy statutes, Glover said.

Lambda said the Commonwealth of Virginia is asking courts to essentially rewrite state laws when valid laws on the books already prohibit a range of sexual conduct, including indecent exposure and prostitution, which were not invalidated by the Supreme Court ruling.

Lawrence essentially struck down laws allowing people to be convicted for conduct that's constitutionally protected, Logue said.

"If you look at this law, it basically says that if you have oral sex with someone, you can be convicted of a felony," Logue said. "The Court in Lawrence struck down the kind of law that just says you can't have sexual intimacy with someone.

"The issue here is whether Virginia can enforce a law that's been declared unconstitutional," Logue said. "Virginia can regulate truly public sex with a law targeted at that, but it can't use a law where all it has to prove is that someone engaged in constitutionally protected conduct because that's not criminal. They have to design the law right and enforce the law right."

In the Supreme Court case, Lambda Legal represented John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were arrested in Texas after police officers responding to a false report found the two men engaged in sex acts prohibited under state sodomy laws.

Glover argued, however, that what Lambda is demanding is the right of people to solicit anonymous sex acts in public restrooms. "That's what they're demanding, and they want to use Lawrence v. Texas somehow as the legal precedent for these anonymous sex acts in public restrooms," Glover said.

"The Supreme Court has not said that anyone has a right to public solicitation of sex or sodomy or anything else in public restrooms. As a matter of fact, they were pretty clear on this being a privacy issue with regard to a domicile or a person's home," Glover said.

"The Virginia sodomy statute is on solid ground because it deals with a public health risk," Glover said. "There's a tremendous public health risk associated with acts of sodomy."

Singson's trial is set for Dec. 3. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

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