ACLU of Virginia Asks Judge to Rule that State Law Criminalizing Adultery is Unconstitutional

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
February 25, 2004 12:00 am

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Rights Group Says Civil Penalties Are Sufficient to Protect Institution of Marriage


LURAY, VA.– The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia today said that it will represent attorney John Bushey, Jr., in appealing a state law criminalizing adultery as a misdemeanor. Bushey earlier pled guilty to violating Virginia’s adultery statute, but reserved his right to challenge the law on the grounds that criminalizing adultery violates the constitutional right to privacy.

“The Supreme Court made it clear in the Texas sodomy case that the government has no right to bring criminal charges against consenting adults for their private intimate acts,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “There must be some places the government cannot go, and the bedroom of consenting adults is one of them.”

“This does not mean that the ACLU of Virginia is condoning adultery,” added Willis. “But we think there is significant difference between a divorce proceeding that penalizes a husband or wife for adulterous behavior and the state charging an adulterer with a crime. Eliminating Virginia’s criminal adultery statute will have no effect whatsoever on domestic proceedings in which adultery is a factor.”

In a brief appearance yesterday before the Page County Circuit Court, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg and special prosecutor Glenn Williamson agreed to present oral arguments on April 9.

“Private sexual conduct between consenting adults is a liberty protected by the Constitution,” said Glenberg. “Moral disapproval is not a sufficient reason to criminalize such conduct.”

Under Virginia law, adultery, defined as having sexual intercourse with anyone other than a spouse, is a Class 4 misdemeanor and subject to a $250 fine.

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