ACLU of Virginia argued in its amicus brief that the Virginia law banning unmarried sexual relations is an unconstitutional government intrusion into our private livesIn a case supported by the ACLU of Virginia, the Virginia Supreme Court today struck down the state law banning sexual relations between unmarried persons.
“Common sense and the Constitution joined forces to give us this very right decision,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “The Virginia Supreme Court has now stated emphatically that the government has no business regulating intimate relations between consenting adults in the privacy of their own bedrooms.”
“Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas in which it struck down state anti-sodomy laws, the outcome of this case was predetermined,” added Willis. “If banning sodomy violates the right of privacy, then banning fornication does too.”
“This should send a clear message to Virginia’s legislators that they need to deal with the unfinished business of repealing Virginia’s sodomy law,” said Willis.
In the 2004 General Assembly, lawmakers agreed to repeal Virginia’s anti-sodomy law as it applied to private settings, but could not agree on the punishment for public sodomy. By the end of the session, the original sodomy law was still standing. In today’s ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court made is clear that its decision did not affect the state’s ability to pass laws governing sex in public.
Lawmakers still have time to introduce legislation repealing the fornication statute this year. The deadline for new bills is next Friday.
The case decided today is Martin v. Ziherl. It began when Muguet Martin filed a lawsuit seeking damages from boyfriend, Kristopher Ziherl, for transmitting herpes to her during the relationship. According to Martin, Ziherl knew he was infected with herpes, knew the virus was contagious, and failed to inform Martin of his condition.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Theodore J. Markow dismissed the case, holding that Martin could not sue for damages that she incurred while engaging in the illegal act of fornication. Martin’s lawyer, Neil Kuchinsky, argued that the state could not make fornication illegal. The case will now go back to the Richmond Circuit Court.
A copy of the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in Martin v. Ziherl is available online at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20050114-1040804.pdf. The ACLU of Virginia’s amicus brief is available by contacting the ACLU of Virginia at 804-644-8022 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022