Rethinking My Youth

Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

I thought I must of heard wrong a bit of local news on NPR yesterday, but no, it was indeed correct: Virginia up until yesterday had a state law banning sex between unmarried individuals.

The Washington Post reports that the state Supreme Court struck down an early 19th Century law banning fornication between unmarried persons. While rarely enforced, the law came into question under a defense move in a civil case regarding the transfer of an STD between two unmarried individuals during a two-year relationship. Apparently, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in 2003, the good folks at the VA Supreme Court thought better of this Commonwealth’s both antiquated and quite stupid law.

Now, I must admit that I never had any idea this law existed. Further, as I mentioned previously, I thought I heard it right on NPR yesterday and tried to do some research on the internet last night. After about 10 minutes of using search engines and newspaper sites, I just gave up (No, that’s not trying very hard, I know). However, ignorance of the law is no defense. The real question for me is, would I have done anything any differently knowing what I know now? (Mom, if you’re reading this, I stop right about here) The answer is, I’d probably only have done it more. Civil disobedience should always be this fun.

Of course, The Commonwealth of Virginia is the same state that, up until the late 60’s, had a law banning interracial marriages. So, not only would my former life have been a series of enjoyable misdemeanors, my married life would have been illegal, since my wife is half-Korean. Which half, you ask? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist) Virginia’s law was particularly nasty in the pantheon of racist laws, in that it was one that laid out the various permissible ratios of heritage (1/16th negro, 1/4th American indian, etc.) that one could still be considered white. I’m pretty sure 1/2 Asian wasn’t in there, and chances are no one would have much cared, but here’s what the trial judge had to say upon exiling the couple in question from Virginia:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

This sounds like all the same rational for banning homosexual marriages: that because God obviously doesn’t want them, than neither should we. I’m not so sure that there’s a whole lot of evidence that suggests God doesn’t want two loving people to have a formal commitment. Further, I think that at some point in my lifetime, we’ll look back at today’s anti-gay-marriage laws and feel the same way about banning interracial marriage and unmarried sex: why did we ever have laws institutionalizing hate and criminalizing love?

3 thoughts on “Rethinking My Youth”

  1. Jason – How do I select this to print? Our fearless leader (yours formerly) just made a comment about wacky laws in California and I thought I’d print this and leave it laying somewhere…

    On first reading this, my thought was that maybe someone in the ledge was getting ready to take some serious “time with the family”…

  2. Beq – Good to hear from you again. Sorry about the technical difficulties. Keep in mind that this site has a different style sheet for printing. It doesn’t have all the fancy visuals that the screen display does.
    I’m sure that California has its share of zany laws. However, it takes a much older state like say, Virginia or Maryland, to have some of the nutty stuff on the books like this.
    It’s funny, for all of the recent talk on courts legislating from the bench on social matters, this seems to be a case of the far more common legislative branch re-writing law to determine a court case. I jokingly emphasize recent, because executive and legislative branches have been making that complaint about the judicial since this country started.

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