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The General Assembly Sets its Sights on Behavioral Bills

MBandman / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/mbandman/23033039562

Making laws isn’t always about balancing the budget and drawing political boundaries. Sometimes, it’s also about some of the most human of human behaviors.

Spitting, swearing, fornication. These are all issues before lawmakers this year in the Virginia General Assembly, which is considering a number of criminal justice reform efforts.

Delegate Mark Levine is a Democrat from Alexandria, and he introduced a bill to legalize fornication. That bill has now passed the House and Senate and it’s on its way to the governor’s desk. 

“Under current law, if Mrs. Jones and Mr. Smith wanted to have sex, it would be OK as long as they were married, even though Mrs. Jones was married to Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith was married to Mrs. Smith," Levine explains. "So if you’re married to other people, you could legally have sex in Virginia. But, if you were unmarried, you couldn’t. That just shows you how stupid this law was.”

Delegate Dawn Adams is a Democrat from Richmond, and she introduced bills to legalize swearing in public and spitting in public, both of which she worries can be used to harass people. 

“So you stop somebody for spitting or you stop somebody for swearing, and then you also then search their vehicle," she says. "Just anything where you are engaging a person who’s going about their normal business and then looking to potentially build a case.”

Now, her bill to legalize swearing has now passed the House and Senate and it’s on its way to the governor’s desk. But her bill to legalize spitting in public failed on the Senate floor with a vote of 14 to 24.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.