ACLU of Nevada Challenges “Infamous Crime Against Nature” Statute

LAS VEGAS, NV – Today, April 2, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the National ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and AIDS Project, filed a lawsuit challenging Nevada’s discriminatory “infamous crime against nature” statute.

The “crime against nature” statute creates a double standard that treats identical conduct differently based solely on whether the sexual activity involves same-sex or different-sex couples. While the age of consent to engage in sexual activity in Nevada is 16, the “infamous crime against nature” statute criminalizes consensual sexual conduct with persons who are above the age of consent but under 18 if the conduct occurs between “persons of the same sex.” Identical conduct between different-sex partners is not a crime. On its face, the law discriminates based on sexual orientation in violation of the constitutional right to Equal Protection embodied in the 14th Amendment.

“This law violates Equal Protection guarantees under any standard of review,” observed Staci Pratt, Legal Director for the ACLU of Nevada.

“Elko County prosecutors used the law to prosecute a minor for a consensual sexual relationship with another teenager even though both of them were above the age of consent. If the couple had been a boy and a girl rather than two boys, their conduct would not have been a crime. More than anything, this highlights the necessity of removing this discriminatory, homophobic relic from our statute books,” said Pratt. The case is brought as a class given the potential threat of future prosecution for individuals in similar situations.

Nevada’s ban on “[s]olicitation of a minor to engage in acts constituting the infamous crime against nature” became law in 1979, and has remained on the books for 34 years despite the fact that Nevada repealed the prohibition on crimes against nature between consenting adults in 1993.

“This outdated, discriminatory law should have been removed long ago.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,” stated Tod Story, Interim Executive Director.

The lawsuit seeks to declare that Nevada’s “infamous crime against nature” is unconstitutional in all of its applications. The law classifies and imposes disparate treatment based on sex and sexual orientation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The “infamous crime against nature” is defined in N.R.S. § 201.195. The general age of consent is defined in a different statute, N.R.S. § 200.364.

Additional Resources

- Read the ACLU of Nevada's complaint in John Doe v. Elko County challenging the "infamous crime against nature" statute