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Court upholds conviction in Va. sodomy case

Associated Press Writer

RICHMOND, Virginia- An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a man who police say solicited oral sex from an undercover officer in a department store restroom.

Joel Singson, 38, was convicted in 2003 after he approached a male officer in a public restroom and asked if he could perform oral sex on the man in a handicapped stall. A court sentenced him to three years, with all but six months suspended.

The court on Tuesday rejected defense arguments that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, striking down anti-sodomy and similar state laws, nullified a Virginia statute against oral sex.

Judge Robert J. Humphreys dismissed suggestions that Virginia's sodomy law was against the constitutional rights of the defendant and that the six-month prison term constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Singson's attorneys contended that Virginia's sodomy law was unconstitutional because, combined with related codes, it restricted everything from private sexual acts to discussions of such acts. For the latter reason, they argued, the law also violated protected speech.

But Humphreys said the law wasn't targeting speech "or expressive conduct. Rather, it only prohibits sexual conduct."

The crux of Singson's argument, however, rested on the question of public and private sexual acts and whether the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Lawrence vs. Texas made Virginia laws invalid.

That 2003 ruling banished state statutes criminalizing gay sex as a violation of an individual's constitutional right to sexual privacy.

"We're still considering whether or not to take an appeal," said Greg Nivens, an Atlanta-based attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay rights group representing Joel Singson.

Nivens called the decision a disappointment and a possible indicator that homophobia still thrives in Virginia.

"That you would try to save a law that clearly has been homophobic throughout the ages is kind of inexplicable," he said. "The problem here is just a refusal to recognize that laws like this one are invalid."


On the Net:

Court of Appeals: http://www.courts.state.va.us

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund: http://www.lambdalegal.org/

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