Written by L. Nehme

In the past few decades, the LGBT community has made great strides in its attempts to achieve equality. The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been repealed, gay marriage has been legalized in several states, and more and more people are rallying against discrimination against LGBT individuals. One area, however, has been ignored during all of these changes, and that area is the statutory rape and seduction laws that are still on the books in several states.

One of these states is Nevada. One of these states is Nevada. A homosexual person can be charged with statutory seduction for having sex with someone who is under the age of 18, while a heterosexual person can only be charged for having sex with someone under the age of 16. In the Nevada Revised Statutes, same-sex statutory seduction is horrendously called the “infamous crime against nature” and is defined as "anal intercourse, cunnilingus, or fellatio between natural persons of the same sex." It goes on to say that “[a]ny sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the infamous crime against nature.”

The punishment for statutory seduction between two people of the same sex is harsher and thus disproportionate to the punishment for the same crime between members of the opposite sex. The statute discussing opposite-sex statutory sexual seduction makes it clear that the perpetrator must be over 18 years old and the victim must be under 16. Punishments vary depending on the age of the perpetrator, but the maximum sentence is years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Unlike opposite-sex statutory seduction, the “infamous crime against nature” has is no minimum age requirement for the perpetrator. It merely states that “a person” who “incites, entices, or solicits a minor to engage in the acts” will be guilty. A minor is anyone under the age of 18. Regardless of their age, individuals convicted of the “infamous crime against nature,” can be sentenced to a maximum punishment of life in prison.

All of this means that two gay 17 year-olds can be convicted for having sex with each other, and they could both serve life terms in prison. This is not the case among straight teenagers. There is no reason for this discrepancy - sex is sex, regardless of whether it is between a man and a woman or between two people of the same sex.

This statute is blatantly unfair. It is also unconstitutional, as it discriminates among different citizens, violating the Equal Protection Clause.

The differing ages for statutory seduction go to show that society is still uncomfortable with gay sex, and therefore, want to make sure their children don’t “experiment” while they are teenagers. This homophobic law is hindering the fight for equality.

Furthermore, the anachronistic language of the statute needs to change. Sex between two persons of the same sex is not a “crime against nature.” The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that “crimes against nature” are not crimes, and that a state cannot outlaw sodomy. Nevada removed its “crimes against nature” statutes that outlawed sodomy in 1993, and the state should have removed this additional statute as well.

Continuing to define homosexual sex as a “crime against nature” aids in the oppression of the LGBT community and must stop. It is especially bizarre in a state that has legalized same-sex domestic partnerships, and has numerous laws protecting the LGBT community.

Stay informed

ACLU of Nevada is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National