POLITICS
04/04/2013 03:13 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2013

ACLU Fights Nevada's 'Crime Against Nature' Statute Banning Consensual Sex Between Gay Teens

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced plans this week to fight a discriminatory Nevada statute that bans consensual sex between gay teens, but not straight teens.

The Nevada chapter of the ACLU, as well as the National ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and AIDS Project, officially challenged the law in federal suit filed Tuesday, according to Courthouse News Service.

The state's so-called “infamous crime against nature” statute essentially creates a double standard based solely on sexual orientation, argued the ACLU in a press release. Though the age of sexual consent in Nevada is 16, the statute forbids sex between gay teens who are above the age of consent but under 18.

“This law violates Equal Protection guarantees under any standard of review,” observed Staci Pratt, legal director for the ACLU of Nevada, per the group's release.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed Washoe County teen who was arrested last year and prosecuted under the law, according to the Associated Press. The teen was accused of having sex with two other teens and ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor in November. He is suing Elko County and District Attorney Mark Torvinen in an effort to repeal the law. He is also seeking $1 in damages.

The issue, according to the ACLU's lawsuit, is that the statute is inherently discriminatory and violates Equal Protection guarantees.

"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, according to Courthouse News. "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.'"

According to CBS, the law was signed in 1979 and remained on the books even as similar laws were repealed decades ago.

"This outdated, discriminatory law should have been removed long ago," ACLU Nevada Interim Executive Director Tod Story said in the group's press release. "This lawsuit seeks to ensure that no Nevadan can be prosecuted under this unconstitutional, discriminatory law again."

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