Class Fights Nevada's 'Infamous Crime Against Nature' Law
LAS VEGAS (CN) - Nevada's "infamous crime against nature" law threatens same-sex teenage couples with life in prison for behavior that is legal for mixed-sex couples, a class action claims in Federal Court.
"John Doe had a consensual sexual relationship with another male teenager at a time when Doe was seventeen and the second teenager was sixteen," the complaint states. "If either Doe or the other teenager had been a girl instead of a boy, their sexual relationship would have been completely legal under Nevada law. But because the two teenagers were both boys, Elko County prosecuted John Doe in juvenile court for 'incit[ing], entic[ing], or solicit[ing] a minor to engage in acts which constitute the infamous crime against nature.'" (Brackets in complaint.)
Doe sued Elko County and its District Attorney Mark Torvinen.
He seeks declaratory judgment, an injunction and a dollar.
The complaint continues: "The 'crimes against nature' statute creates a double standard that treats identical conduct differently based solely on whether the sexual activity involves two persons of the same sex. Under Nevada law, sixteen is the legal age of consent to engage in 'ordinary sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus or fellatio.' N.R.S. § 200.364. The statute setting the age of consent, N.R.S. § 200.364, makes no distinctions between heterosexual or homosexual activities. But a separate statute that criminalizes solicitation of a minor to engage in 'crimes against nature,' singles out the identical conduct for severe criminal penalties when it involves two 'persons of the same sex.' N.R.S. § 201.195.2. The 'crimes against nature' statute thus enables prosecutors to circumvent the age of consent established by N.R.S. § 200.364 and prosecute identical conduct under N.R.S. § 201.195 if, and only if, the sexual conduct involved a same-sex couple."
Doe says he could face up to life in prison for engaging in consensual sex.
The complaint continues: "Although the charges against Doe for violating N.R.S.§ 201.195 have now been dropped, Doe continues to face a realistic threat of prosecution as a result of Elko County's policy, custom, and practice of enforcing the unconstitutional 'crimes against nature' statute. While he is in Elko County, Doe is free under Nevada law to form intimate relationships and engage in consensual sexual activity with partners who are sixteen or older as long as those partners are female. If, however, Doe seeks to form an intimate relationship and engage in consensual sexual activity in Elko County with a male partner who is sixteen or seventeen years old, he faces a realistic threat of prosecution for 'incit[ing], entic[ing], or solicit[ing] a minor to engage in acts which constitute the infamous crime against nature.' N.R.S. § 201.195.1. Even if no sexual activity actually occurs, Doe faces punishment for committing a gross misdemeanor if he communicates with a potential male partner who is sixteen or seventeen years old in a manner that could be construed as 'incit[ing], entic[ing], or solicit[ing] a minor to engage in acts which constitute the infamous crime against nature.' N.R.S. §§ 201.195.1; 126.96.36.199(b)(1). If Doe engages in such communications on two occasions, he faces a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 5 years. N.R.S. § 201.195.1(b)(2). As a result of Elko County's policy of enforcing the 'crimes against nature' statute, this same threat of prosecution hangs over any gay person in Elko County who seeks to form an intimate relationship with a same-sex partner who satisfies the general age of consent but is under eighteen.
"The discriminatory 'crimes against nature' statute violates equal protection under any standard of review."
Doe was born in April 1994.
He is represented by Staci Pratt with the ACLU of Nevada.
"This outdated, discriminatory law should have been removed long ago. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that no Nevadan can be prosecuted under this unconstitutional, discriminatory law again," ACLU Nevada's interim executive director Tod Story said in a statement.