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An American Civil Liberties Union official said the crackdown means a varying severity of punishment for similar crimes. One of the men arrested had allegedly tried to pay for sexual intercourse. He was charged with a misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail upon conviction.
The other two men allegedly requested oral sex. They were charged with soliciting another person to commit a felony - namely, sodomy, which is illegal in Virginia and 19 other states.
Soliciting a felony also is porstitutes felony, and it carries one to five years in prison upon conviction. The sodomy law - which makes oral sex illegal even if it is consensual and the participants are married - is a rarely used relic of the 18th century blue laws.
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But it remains on the books, and police occasionally drag it out and dust it off, usually for use against homosexuals, Willis said. Apart from prostitutes, there are no recorded cases of any heterosexuals being prosecuted for consensual oral sex in the history of the law, lawyers said.
Its most notable recent use may have been in the Sharon Bottoms custody dispute: A judge refused a mother custody of her child because the woman is a lesbian. Charlottesville officials say it was suggested to them by police in Richmond and elsewhere in the state.
It almost makes a joke of the law. About 30 states have replaced their sodomy laws. Of the rest, Virginia and 13 others still have sodomy laws that cover homosexual and heterosexual sodomy, and six other states have sodomy laws banning homosexual sodomy only.
But Willis said people should be able to count on the letter of the law itself to be fair. The problem is that it does exist.