- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

RICHMOND A bill that would ban instructors from teaching about sodomy in Virginia public schools sailed through the House of Delegates Education Committee yesterday, over the objections of some lawmakers who say the measure gives the state too much control over local schools.
Since 1987, when the General Assembly approved the Family Life sex-education program, teachers have had the legal right to teach about sodomy and bestiality, which are "crimes against nature" under Virginia law.
But Delegate John J. Welch III, Virginia Beach Republican, introduced a bill to forbid the practice.
"It's offensive to students and parents, and I am behooved to do something," Mr. Welch told the committee, which passed the bill 17-5.
When committee members asked Mr. Welch for examples of the teaching material he found objectionable, Mr. Welch told them it was too graphic to show.
Amendments to the bill would allow teachers to mention that sodomy and bestiality are crimes against nature and felonies in Virginia, but they would not be able to describe what the acts are or discuss the subject in detail.
Delegate Mitchell Van Yahres, Charlottesville Democrat, said that he voted against the bill because school districts needed to be allowed to make their own decisions.
Teachers should be allowed to explain the law more fully, he said.
"The local school boards have the authority to control the situation," he said.

Rape charges could be brought against married people who force their spouses to have sexual intercourse, even if the couple lives together, under legislation approved by a Senate committee.
Virginia is one of 32 states that exempt spouses accused of rape from prosecution under certain circumstances. In Virginia, a spouse can be charged with rape only if the couple is not living together or if the victim was physically injured.
"No matter who rapes you or where you are raped, rape is rape," said Sen. Janet Howell, Fairfax Democrat, after the Senate Courts of Justice Committee gave unanimous approval to the bill on a voice vote.
Attorney General Jerry Kilgore has made fighting domestic violence a major part of his legislative agenda.
He told women at a nearby YWCA shortly before the committee vote that, "I for one cannot understand why we want to protect" marital rapists in Virginia.
"It is time we remove requirements that have made marital rape so difficult to prosecute in Virginia," said Mr. Kilgore, a Republican and former prosecutor.
Sen. Thomas Norment, James City County Republican and chief sponsor of Mr. Kilgore's domestic-violence bill, told the committee he received a letter from a resident that read in part:
"If you are raped by a stranger, you have to live with a frightening memory. If you're raped by your husband, you have to live with the rapist."
No one spoke against the bill.
The measure also would:
Increase punishment for family assault and stalking.
Create a statewide coordinator position in the Attorney General's Office for victims of domestic violence.
Require police departments to enter the names of those subject to protective orders into the Virginia Criminal Information Network maintained by the state police.
A fiscal-impact analysis conducted by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission found that it would cost the state at least $76.8 million to implement the domestic-violence proposals, mostly for new prison space for offenders.

The state Senate passed a bill that requires a thumbprint on driver's licenses or other state-issued IDs, in part as a response to reports that some of the hijackers in the September 11 terrorist attacks held phony Virginia licenses.
The bill, intended to clamp down on the growing crime of identity theft, advanced to the House of Delegates on a 28-10 vote with one abstention.
Putting a "biometric" mark as unique as a thumbprint on the cards would pose major obstacles for forgers in a time when off-the-shelf graphics technology has made it easy to create convincing forgeries, said Sen. John Watkins, the sponsor.
Biometric markers are ways to identify individuals through unique biological traits, said Mr. Watkins, Chesterfield Republican.
Debate over the bill illustrated the clash between those concerned about foiling terrorists and those concerned about individual privacy.
Opponents questioned why people not accused of a crime should have to submit fingerprints possibly DNA samples one day to the government.
Sen. Bill Bolling, Hanover Republican, asked whether the biological information would eventually be stored in a massive computer database, allowing government to snoop on innocent people.
Mr. Watkins responded: "I don't have any intent whatsoever of trying to set up a system that makes more Big Brother."
Four persons were charged in Northern Virginia with helping some of the September 11 terrorists obtain fraudulent Virginia driver's licenses or identification cards by exploiting a now-closed loophole in Department of Motor Vehicles rules.
The old DMV rules allowed applicants for a driver's license or an official identification card to authenticate their identity without documents such as a passport or a driver's license from another state.

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