Two years, three dictionaries later, Fla. court defines sexual intercourse

Change text size for the story

(Getty Images)
“We had our day in court and the court heard our arguments and the court has spoken,” he said.

A lower court threw out the charge, but it was reinstated upon appeal. The case will now go back to the trial court.

The court rejected that argument, ruling that the Legislature’s goal was clearly to reduce the spread of HIV when it enacted the 1986 law, even if it didn’t clearly spell out what it mean by “sexual intercourse.”

Print this story
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It took two years and three dictionaries, but the Florida Supreme Court finally determined Thursday that “sexual intercourse” isn’t just between a man and a woman.

Debaun’s attorney, Brian Ellison, wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the ruling.

His lawyer argued before the state’s high court in February 2015 that Florida laws were so narrowly defined that “sexual intercourse” didn’t apply to sexual activity between same-sex partners or any activity beyond traditional sex. The question arose during a case in which a man was charged with a third-degree felony for failing to reveal to his male partner that he was HIV-positive.

“Because the Legislature did not define ’sexual intercourse’ … we look to the dictionary in order to ascertain the plain and ordinary meaning of the term,” the court wrote in the unanimous decision before quoting three dictionaries. The plain meaning of sexual intercourse clearly encompasses “acts beyond penile-vaginal intercourse,” the court said.

The case was brought after Gary Debaun was charged in 2011 with not disclosing that he was HIV-positive before having sex with his partner. Court records show Debaun’s partner asked him to take an HIV test, and that Debaun, who knew he was infected, provided fake results showing he was free of the virus that causes AIDS.

Report an error

The court wrote that gay and bisexual men are disproportionately affected by the spread of HIV and said the disclosure law wasn’t meant to be restricted to sex between men and women.