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Reader questions Oregon sex crime laws

In a recent article, you reported that a Jackson County man was charged with "deviate sexual intercourse." I looked up the statute, and it appears to be a sodomy law. I was under the impression that the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision of 2003 struck down such laws. Why is this still on the books?

— Christian, Medford

As a warning to other readers, we're going to use some adult language while answering your question, Christian.

The man you are referring to is Crater High School teacher Jeffrey Robert Zundel, 52, who has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a student younger than age 18. A grand jury indicted him in early November on 11 counts of second-degree sexual abuse linked to sexual intercourse and deviate sexual intercourse and one count of third-degree sexual abuse linked to other sexual contact.

Under Oregon law, sodomy is the sex crime that involves deviate sexual intercourse, which in turn relates to oral or anal sexual contact.

Deviate sexual intercourse is illegal in Oregon if the action involves forcible compulsion or the victim is underage or incapable of consent due to mental defect, mental incapacitation or physical helplessness.

Sexual intercourse is also illegal under those circumstances.

The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision had the effect of striking down a Texas law that criminalized sodomy between consenting adults acting in a private place. The decision also invalidated similar sodomy laws involving consenting adults in other states.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.