Tuesday, January 14, 2003


Georgia high court rejects fornication law



A story published today by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that since 1833, it has been a crime in Georgia for unmarried people to engage in sex. But a decision issued Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court voids the controversial and seldom-used statute when applied against people in private, consensual sexual relationships.

The court struck down the fornication conviction against Jesse McClure, who was 16 when he was found having sex with his girlfriend in September 2001 at her Fayette County home. The girl's mother caught them in the act. After the girl's mother mentioned the incident to the girl's probation officer, the officer brought the charges.

The Georgia Supreme Court followed a precedent it set in 1998 when it threw out the sodomy law on privacy grounds.

"Our opinion simply affirms that . . . the government may not reach into the bedroom of a private residence and criminalize the private, noncommercial, consensual sexual acts of two persons legally capable of consenting to those acts," Chief Justice Norman Fletcher wrote.

Peachtree City lawyer Catherine Sanderson, who with the American Civil Liberties Union represented McClure, praised the court's decision. "This means that no longer does the state have any say in regulating private sexual activity between consenting persons of legal age."

Under Georgia law, the age of consent is 16.

"I'm relieved that very personal decisions regarding sexual intimacy will remain just that -- person decisions," ACLU staff attorney Beth Littrell said. "This law was simply another intrusive attempt by the government to legislate morality."




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