News & Politics

How VA's Would-Be Gov. Cuccinelli Would Turn Thousands of High School Students Into Felony Sex Offenders

So-called 'crimes against nature' law would disproportionately affect minors.

Photo Credit: Andrey Shadrin/Shutterstock.com

 

The following was originally published on ThinkProgress.org.

Walk into any eleventh grade classroom in Virginia. If Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) has his way, close to forty percent of the students will be felony sex offenders.

Dahlia Lithwick breaks down the implications of Cuccinelli’s plan in a must-read piece over at Slate. In short, Cuccinelli’s petition asking the Supreme Court to reinstate much of Virginia’s so-called “crimes against nature” law — which criminalizes oral and anal sex — is unlikely to impact adults who have sex with adults because the Court’s previous decision in Lawrence v. Texas held that the Constitution protects non-commercial sexual activity among adults. The tea partying attorney general’s petition, however, largely relies on a line in Lawrence suggesting that underage sexual activity can still be criminalized.

As Lithwick notes, “44 percent of males and 42 percent of females between the ages of 15 and 17 have engaged in oral sex in the United States.” While it’s undoubtedly true that a minority of these teenagers are engaged in oral sex with someone much older, the overwhelming majority of them are partnering with each other. And since Cuccinelli’s proposed rule would make no exception for teens who have oral sex with other teens, every single high school student who does so would become a felon and a sex offender.

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