RICHMOND, Va., April 3 (UPI) -- Virginia's anti-sodomy law should be allowed to stand because it protects minors, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says.
A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned the law in a 2-1 decision. Cuccinelli filed a petition in late March requesting a hearing by all 15 judges on the circuit, The Washington Blade reported Wednesday.
Caroline Gibson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Cuccinelli -- the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia's November election -- believes the dissenting judge was correct because the specific case before the court involved a 47-year-old man who solicited a 17-year-old girl for oral sex. She said the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence decision, which found a Texas anti-sodomy law unconstitutional, only applies to acts between consenting adults.
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a gay rights organization, said the law is unconstitutional.
"We think that's a better recourse than the attorney general filing another appeal and diverting precious state resources on an issue that the General Assembly should address because the court made the correct ruling on March 12," he said.
Judge Robert King, who wrote the majority opinion for the 4th Circuit, said a blanket prohibition of sodomy is "facially" unconstitutional and other options are available to protect minors.
Legal experts say petitions for so-called en banc hearings are rarely granted.
A spokesman for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor, said Cuccinelli's petition was "just another example of Ken Cuccinelli ignoring the economy and instead focusing on his divisive ideological agenda," the left-leaning Talking Points Memo website said.
"This case is not about sexual orientation, but using current law to protect a 17-year-old girl from a 47-year-old sexual predator," Gibson told TPM in a statement.
"The attorney general is committed to protecting Virginia's children from predators who attempt to exploit them and rob them of their childhood," she said.