Virginia no longer plans to make oral sex between 17-year-olds a felony

“I have heard the concerns and have started to draft an amendment to my bill," said state Sen. Thomas A. Garrett

Published January 17, 2014 6:34PM (EST)

Virginia state Sen. Thomas A. Garrett    (YouTube)
Virginia state Sen. Thomas A. Garrett (YouTube)

Virginia officials have scraped a proposal that could have made consensual oral sex between 17-year-old couples a crime, opting instead to adopt a revised version of the measure.

As reported by Josh Israel at ThinkProgress, the previous proposal would have restored felony penalties for minors engaging in oral sex, which stirred considerable outrage in the state. After being harshly criticized by LGBTQ advocacy and civil liberties groups, the measure's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Thomas A. Garrett, relented, telling the Huffington Post, “I have heard the concerns and have started to draft an amendment to my bill that will deal with the unintended consequences of a bill that is nothing but well-intended.”

Garrett has described himself as a "Cuccinelli conservative," a nod to the former state attorney general who made upholding the state's unconstitutional ban on sodomy a centerpiece of his time in office.

More from ThinkProgress:

Responding to concerns about a proposed bill that would have brought back much of Virginia’s infamous “Crimes Against Nature” law and potentially made felons out of 17-year-old couples engaging in consensual oral sex, the Virginia Senate Committee for Courts of Justice unanimously adopted a substitute version on Wednesday. The revised bill would generally treat prostitution, child molestation, and other illegal sex acts the same way for oral and anal sex as for vaginal intercourse. [...]

[State Sen. Thomas A.] Garrett worked with the committee to amend the bill to address the concerns. He told the Washington Post that his aim was to protect children and would support clarifying its language to make clear that “sex acts are sex acts,” adding that “we need to make sure we protect children… not from each other.”

If enacted, it would end a decades-long struggle between privacy advocates and anti-LGBT groups like Virginia’s Family Foundation. The Crimes Against Nature law, which made oral and anal sex (even between consenting married couples) a felony in Virginia, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas. But the state legislature refused to update the law and as a result, federal courts ruled in 2013 that even the provisions of the law dealing with child predators were unenforceable.

The bill now will go to the Senate’s Finance committee to review its fiscal impact.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Anti-gay Laws Anti-lgbtq Laws Ken Cuccinelli Lawrence V Texas Lgbt Rights Lgbtq Rights Sodomy Virginia