Virginia state Sen. Thomas Garrett Jr. has introduced an anti-sodomy law to replace a prior law that was struck down in 2013 that targets sex with individuals below the age of 18. This new and improved morality law could criminalize an array of different forms of consensual relations, including oral sex. I recently wrote a column on the welcomed demise of morality codes in the United States.
Garrett’s law would criminalize oral or anal sex with someone under 18 years old is guilty of a felony, punishable by one to five years. That includes consensual sex between teenagers. Garrett insists that he is only trying to protect minors from adult sex predators but his law sweeps beyond such defendants.
The law rekindles the debate over criminalizing teenage sex where one party is 18 and the other is less than 18. Such unions are common and generally consensual.
Virginia currently has a criminal fornication law which appears facially invalid:
§ 18.2-344. Fornication.
Any person, not being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any other person, shall be guilty of fornication, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
(Code 1950, §§ 18.1-188, 18.1-190; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)
There is also a criminal adultery law on the books:
§ 18.2-365. Adultery defined; penalty.
Any person, being married, who voluntarily shall have sexual intercourse with any person not his or her spouse shall be guilty of adultery, punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.
(Code 1950, §§18.1-187, 18.1-190; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.)
There is also an array of more specific crimes like french kissing a minor:
§ 18.2-370.6. Penetration of mouth of child with lascivious intent; penalty.
Any person 18 years of age or older who, with lascivious intent, kisses a child under the age of 13 on the mouth while knowingly and intentionally penetrating the mouth of such child with his tongue is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Virginia’s current code is a comprehensive criminalization of consensual acts. Clearly, minors present a different issue since they cannot legally consent. However, the danger is the criminalization of consensual sexual acts between teenagers.
Garrett was born in Georgia and earned his Bachelor and Law degrees from the University of Richmond. He served in the United States Army for six years and was Louisa County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2007. He has run on his “law-and-order focus and conservative ideals to his work in the Virginia Senate, where he fights for the families of the 22nd District.”