Virginia's Sodomy Law

Virginia outlaws consensual sexual behavior between adults with 18.2-361, "Crimes against nature". This prohibits the making or consenting to such sexual contact a Class 6 felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment not less than one year nor more than five years, or a confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

Virginia also bans voluntary sexual intercourse between unmarried persons with code section 18.2-344 - Fornication. This is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor which imposes a fine of not more than $250 upon a successful conviction.

Lewd and lascivious cohabitation is also prohibited in Virginia and is punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor upon a first successful conviction which carries a fine of not more than $500. Subsequent convictions are punishable as Class 1 misdemeanors which have a sentence of not more than twelve months in jail and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both. All parties cohabiting are subject to prosecution.

Of particular note is Virginia's traditional model for sexual crimes in which the wife is considered property and is considered to always consent to the husband's sexual advances unless serious injury took place during the event. Virginia's rape law, 18.2-61 states that "no person shall be found guilty under this subsection unless, at the time of the alleged offense, (i) the spouses were living separate and apart, or (ii) the defendant caused serious physical injury to the spouse by the use of force or violence." Identical language exists for Virginia's Forcible sodomy law, 18.2-67.1.


When a constitutional challenge was made to Virginia's sodomy law in 1975 (403 F. Supp 1199), the court claimed the statute was legitimate and showed the State's interest merely because it had remained on the books for so long and was rooted in Judaic and Christian law.

Although a questionable law is not removed from question by the lapse of any prescriptive period, the longevity of the Virginia statute does testify to the State's interest and its legitimacy. It is not an upstart notion; it has ancestry going back to Judaic and Christian law.
(403 F.Supp 1199, 1202)

The court opinion goes on to quote Biblical passages as justification for the law.

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
(Leviticus 18:22)

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
(Leviticus 20:13)

No other Biblical passages or Judaic teachings were offered for a comparison of the applicability of those value systems to modern day reality.

Legislative attempts

Delegate L. Karen Darner has introduced two bills that attempt to legalize consentual acts between adults. The first bill, HB 1468 would legalize "intimate sexual acts between consenting adults which are done in private and for noncommercial purposes." This concept was apparently too radical and the bill was stricken from the docket by the Courts of Justice. HB 2718 was then introduced which would decriminalize "the act of a person who carnally knows any male of female person who is 18 years of age or older." No action was taken by the Courts of Justice on this bill.

Virginia Laws and Legislature are available for public perusal.