Potty-mouths beware: Constitutional or not, it appears cursing in public will remain illegal in Virginia.
Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier County, thought it might be time to get rid of the language in state law forbidding “profanely cursing or swearing in public.” It’s a class-four misdemeanor, punishable by a $250 fine.
It’s been 27 years since the Virginia Court of Appeals declared a nearly identical Virginia Beach ordinance unconstitutional on free-speech grounds, Webert told a House of Delegates subcommittee Wednesday. Webert’s legislation would have removed the prohibition from state law to conform with that 1989 ruling.
Not so fast, said Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas. Uttering a string of expletives that could have gotten him arrested had a police officer been present, Miller – a former policeman – painted a scenario of a mother trying to protect her children from coarse language on a street corner.
Getting rid of the cursing ban, he said, “leads to a crass society.”
On a motion by Miller, Webert’s bill was tabled, meaning it is unlikely to advance.
“There’s always a little bit of discomfort when it comes to free speech,” Webert said after the vote.
Meanwhile, Virginia Beach is still trying to discourage foul language – unenforceable law or not. Along the oceanfront, signs feature a red “no” symbol superimposed on a string of characters representing profanity.