Friday, January 28

Modern Life & the Virginia Supreme Court

Hey, someone in the Old Dominion has finally noticed that there's this case on the books called Lawrence v. Texas. As the ABA Journal reports, the Virginia high court has struck down a criminal statute (wow, I wonder when they last did that!) prohibiting "fornication," based on SCOTUS's famous 2003 sodomy case.

The decision had nothing to do with gay rights, of course. Rather, it involved an unmarried woman who sued her ex-lover for giving her herpes. The ex's defense relied on a rule of law prohibiting recovery of damages sustained when the plaintiff was engaged in a criminal activity -- in this case, premarital sex. The plaintiff countered that the archaic and unenforced fornication law (one of 12 in the country) was unconstitutional under the reasoning of Lawrence, and the state supreme court agreed: "Decisions by married or unmarried persons regarding their intimate physical relationship are elements of their personal relationships that are entitled to due process protection." It also limited its decision to only to private, consensual conduct between adults, thereby perserving "the commonwealth's police power regarding regulation of public fornication, prostitution or other such crimes."

Nice to see that even a Virginia court can catch up with the times. What's more depressing, however, is the reaction from by the defendant's 35-year-old lawyer. Considering the alleged actions of his client, it's dismaying to hear someone bring out the blame-the-victim argument:

I think it’s kind of ironic that the Virginia Supreme Court found that the statute furthers no legitimate state interest when one of the obvious public policies underlying the fornication statute was the protection of the public health. And, had the plaintiff complied with the fornication statute, she would not have contracted herpes. So, to find that the fornication statute bore no rational relation to the commonwealth’s public health concerns seems ridiculous.

That's just sad. Also, no news yet on whether this case will have any impact on legislators now gathered in Richmond who have been presented with a bill repealing Virginia's sodomy law.

P.S. Sorry to be so far behind on this January 14th story. Where have I been?