(VC Note: This piece was written on August 19th, 2013).
Back in 2003, the Supreme Court invalidated a number of state anti-sodomy laws (including Virginia’s) in the case of Lawrence v. Texas. In this ruling, the Court declared sodomy to be a liberty offered by the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. Personally, I find this logic to be faulty. Given that the federal government has no authority under the Constitution to regulate, permit, or disallow any sexual activity, I strongly believe the Supreme Court was in error.
However, be it for better or worse, we now live in a post Lawrence v. Texas world. Recently, Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli suggested re-criminalizing sodomy in the state. Personally, as a social conservative, like Cuccinelli, I have an aversion to sodomy. I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to hear about it, and I certainly don’t want to see someone engaged in it. As our biblical basis, I’m sure many of us remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where God destroys the two cities as a result of the actions of their residents (hence the word sodomy). However, in a conversation with my pastor, she added that perhaps the greatest offense of Sodom was their total disregard of hospitality. Either way, I have considerable concerns about making these kinds of activities illegal once more in Virginia.
Now, obviously there are a multitude of arguments to be made to ban not just sodomy, but all sorts of sexual activity from the public eye. However, if Virginia were to forbid sodomy again, we come across the troubling question of enforcement. Do police and lawmakers have a right to enter a person’s property to check for such behaviors? When it comes to coercion, rape, or the violation of minors, there is a general agreement that, yes, the authorities have this right. However, when in the area of consenting adults, the issue becomes more difficult.
Again, let me repeat that I am not in favor of sodomy. However, does that opinion trump the ability of individuals to do what they wish behind closed doors and outside the public eye? I should think not. After all, if we remember, it wasn’t too long ago that sexual activity among people of differing races was frowned upon in this state. In addition, we once gave the state the power to sterilize “undesirables”. With the reintroduction of anti-sodomy laws, should these practices be dusted off as well? Admittedly the question is absurd, but still there is a certain bit of truth and danger embedded within. Are there fellow social conservatives who think when they hear the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that these cities would have been spared if only their government had passed laws to save the citizens from their own immorality?
We must remind ourselves that if we are willing to permit the government entry into our homes and sexual practices in order to make sodomy illegal again, we open ourselves up to all sorts of additional intrusions should the lawmakers or police feel so inclined. If a person’s home is her castle, shouldn’t she be allowed to run it as she sees fit so long as she doesn’t deprive anyone of his or her life, liberty, or property? If I don’t want the state in my bedroom, it would not be morally consistent for me to send it into yours.
I’d rather see Virginia as a beacon of liberty among the fifty states where each citizen is free to chart his own destiny, rather than a place where the government spies upon its citizens in some kind of theocratic police state. Sure, many of us may have a moral revulsion to sodomy and thus, I believe, have a right to keep it out of our personal homes, businesses, and the public sphere, but does this right supercede the rights of my neighbor in the privacy of his house? The answer, at least to any liberty-minded person, is obvious.