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Top Va. Republican urges court to keep anti-sodomy law on the books

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is urging a federal appeals court to overturn a three-judge panel's decision to declare an anti-sodomy law unconstitutional.

The Washington Blade reports that Cuccinelli filed a formal "petition with the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond asking the full 15-judge court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel last month that overturned the state's sodomy law. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on March 12 that a section of Virginia's 'Crimes Against Nature' statute that outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, gay or straight, is unconstitutional based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003 known as Lawrence v. Texas."

Steve Helber / Steve Helber / AP file photo

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at a press conference Thursday, June 28, 2012.

Cuccinelli will be formally nominated as the Republican nominee in this year's governor's race by the state party at its convention May 18.

The move could potentially have repercussions for his gubernatorial bid in a state Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. It also comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering two cases dealing with gay rights, after the national party has urged Republicans to accept gays and lesbians, and as Senate Republicans like Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois have announced their support for same-sex marriage.

Cuccinelli will be running against likely Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and major Bill and Hillary Clinton fundraiser, in what is sure to be one of the most closely watched races this year.

More background from the Blade:

"The March 12 ruling of the appeals court's three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision upholding the conviction of a 37-year-old man charged in 2005 with soliciting a 17-year-old woman to engage in oral sex. The Attorney General's office argued that the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision didn't apply to cases involving minors. But 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Robert King, who wrote the majority opinion, said the Lawrence decision rendered the Virginia sodomy statue 'facially' or completely unconstitutional. He stated other laws could be used to prosecute an adult for engaging in sex with a minor and that the Virginia General Assembly would likely have authority under the Lawrence decision to pass a new law specifically outlawing sodomy between an adult and a minor."